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Kyrgyzstan On the Road to Reform, Says Ambassador

(Washington, D.C.; 20 July 2005) Kyrgyzstan has a strong civil society, which forms a stable base for the country to resume democratic reforms after a free and fair presidential election, according to Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to the United States. H.E. Zamira Sydykova told a recent RFE/RL audience that "the situation in Kyrgyzstan is not bad" after the "people's revolution" that took place earlier this year, and that the country did "not need radical changes."

Sydykova said that Kyrgyzstan's "strong civil society, strong political parties, and strong press, which gave the opportunity for people to understand their rights and freedoms" helped to create the "revolution," which drove former President Askar Akaev from power. "We all took part [in the people's revolution]," she said, and never doubted that there were alternatives to Akaev. "Some people thought there was no alternative to Akaev, but we have many bright political and civic leaders," Sydykova said.

According to Sydykova, many international organizations had responded with assistance to the new government to ensure a free and fair presidential election. She said that the United Nations Development Program had provided financial support to review and organize the list of registered voters. The U.S. government provided "great support for training of [election] observers and help with candidate debates and exit polling." "In previous times, state TV wouldn't have given time to alternative candidates," Sydykova said. "Now many channels have shown the presidential debates." One reason why the voter lists were an issue was because it is estimated that "up to 20 percent of Kyrgyzstan's population lives abroad," Sydykova said. Of the total population of 5 million, there is an estimated 2.5 million potential voters and under Kyrgyz election laws there must be at least a 50 percent voter turnout for the election to be valid, Sydykova explained.

Kurmanbek Bakiev, the interim president who ran against six other candidates in the election on 10 July, did win the election. Sydykova had described him as the front-runner, and said that Bakiev had promised "to bring back balance to the different branches of government and restore stability." There is a special commission, she said, to review the options for constitutional reform, since in the past, "one person was able to usurp power because [Akaev] had the constitution changed twice" during the past decade.

On the question of Uzbek refugees who have fled to Kyrgyzstan after the 13 May tragedy in Andijon, Sydykova said, "Most of those who crossed the border have a criminal background," and "We will put ourselves in danger if we don't extradite them back to Uzbekistan. We have an agreement with Uzbekistan." But she did acknowledge that there are three-way negotiations going on with the UN concerning the fate of the Uzbek refugees.

Sydykova called the recent statement by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) calling for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan, a "declaration to open dialogue" on "some term for the end of antiterrorist activities." She said, "The SCO doesn't determine when there is stability in the region."