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Kyrgyzstan: Bakiev Accuses Opposition Of Seeking To Usurp Power

  • Jean-Christophe Peuch --> Premier Kulov (left) and President Bakiev at a press conference today in Bishkek (RFE/RL) PRAGUE, November 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev today accused opposition lawmakers of seeking to "usurp power" and called on them to begin consultations "immediately" to reach an agreement on a future form of government.

A group of parliamentarians overnight voted to set up a constituent assembly to draft a new fundamental law that would strip the president of some of his powers.

Addressing a press briefing today in Bishkek, President Bakiev cautioned his opponents against fostering political instability, saying the existing constitution gave him the right to dissolve parliament.

"To me, dissolving parliament is not an end," he said. "I've said that many times. But I have such a constitutional right and if the situation continues like that, if the contradictions between the parliament and the executive are not resolved, what will I have left to do? I cannot indefinitely watch such debauchery. I'll then have to make a decision."

MORE: A gallery of images from the November 6 demonstrations in Bishkek.

Coverage of the unrest in Kyrgyz from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

Believes In Public Support

Bakiev also said he believed the majority of the Kyrgyz population will support him.

"The people do not assess our work badly," he said. "I am absolutely convinced that our people will never decide to overthrow President Bakiev and Prime Minister [Feliks] Kulov."

Hours earlier, a group a lawmakers met in parliament and voted to set up a so-called Constituent Assembly to approve a new draft constitution.

Kyrgyzstan's AKIpress news agency today published the draft, saying 39 of the country's 71 parliamentarians had put their signatures under it.

If approved, the new constitution would give the parliament enhanced powers and reduce those of the president.

The legislature would, among others, be responsible for appointing the members of the government, including the prime minister and the security ministers that are currently under the direct supervision of the president.

Dismisses Constituent Assembly

In a statement posted on his website, Bakiev described the creation of the Constituent Assembly and the ensuing adoption of a draft constitution as an attempt to "usurp power."

He also called on his opponents to sit without delay at the negotiation table in a bid to reach a compromise over constitutional issues.

The head of state on November 6 submitted his own proposals for "changes and additions" to the existing constitution that his aides say aim to create a mixed presidential-parliamentary form of government.

Demonstrators outside the government building in Bishkek on November 6 (RFE/RL)

But his opponents insist that Kyrgyzstan become a fully-fledged parliamentary republic. They also say Bakiev's proposals rule out any possibility of a genuine discussion because the existing constitution says parliament can only approve or reject a president's proposed amendments to the fundamental law.

Tandem Sticking Together

Prime Minister Kulov today joined the president in his criticism of the opposition, describing the overnight developments as an attempt to force the hand of the authorities.

"This is a dangerous precedent," Kulov said. "It frightens us because it means that we would leave those who will succeed us at the head of the country and our descendants a very bad record of how legislative decisions were made.

This is dangerous. We have no right to accept that. If we allowed that to happen, we would lose our political face before the international community. And in the final analysis the people would not forgive us. This is why I'm against this partisan warfare, against this haste. Even the best intentions in the world shouldn't be accompanied with such illegal moves."

In comments to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Constituent Assembly chairman and opposition lawmaker Kubatbek Baibolov brushed aside Kulov's accusations, and questioned the way the current leadership originally took power.

"We did not even try to call the Constituent Assembly a legal body," Baibolov said. "This is a political move. Should we talk about legality, we should go back to [the ousting of then-President Askar Akaev on] March 24, 2005, when the government building was illegally seized by force."

The opposition accuses Bakiev of reneging on election pledges he made before his election in July 2005 to curtail his powers.

Since November 2, thousands of opposition protesters have been picketing the White House, as the building that hosts the presidential administration and the government headquarters is known in Bishkek, to demand that Bakiev implement long-awaited constitutional and other reforms, or step down.

Scuffles Reported

Smaller pro-Bakiev demonstrations took place today in a number of Kyrgyz cities. Also today, clashes erupted between government supporters and purported pro-opposition demonstrators in Bishkek.

The incident erupted after several dozen people went from the front of the large Alatoo Square that abuts the White House to another square nearby, where some 500 pro-Bakiev demonstrators had assembled in the morning.

The two groups threw bottles and stones at each other. Security forces managed to separate them with what appeared to be tear gas.

A RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent reported afterward seeing two armored vehicles being brought in.

Murat Sutalinov, the head of the National Security Service (SNB), later visited the scene of the clash. He denied opposition claims that authorities were behind the incident.

"The clashes started and we had to interpose ourselves between them," he said. "We then proceeded to disperse the crowd. What else could we possibly do? They say this is a provocation on the part of the authorities. Who's making provocations? I wish they could go back to their home regions and demonstrate there. Bishkek has had enough of all this."

Bakiev Speaks With Foreign Leaders

President Bakiev discussed Kyrgyzstan's political developments by telephone today with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Presidential spokesman Dosaly Esenaliev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Bakiev reassured Putin over the stability of his administration.

"In the course of their conversation, the two presidents exchanged views on the current political situation in Kyrgyzstan," Esenaliev said. "President [Bakiev] stressed that despite steps taken by the opposition in recent days his government remains in control of the situation."

Earlier today, Bakiev had telephone conversations with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

A statement posted on Bakiev's official website says the three men discussed an upcoming CIS summit, bilateral relations, and regional issues. It also says Nazarbaev asked Bakiev about latest political developments in Kyrgyzstan.

In China today, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Beijing hoped Bakiev's administration would be capable of "maintaining social stability and economic growth."

Jiang also urged the international community to help preserving stability in Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and China are all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional grouping that also includes Tajikistan.

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