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Ahead Of Kyrgyz President's Visit, Osh Mayor Claims People's Support

  • Bruce Pannier

Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov (file photo)

Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov (file photo)

Melis Myrzakmatov, the mayor of Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city, Osh, has made his position clear ahead of a visit by the country's president that could result in his firing.

Apparently anticipating that outcome, the mayor told the Kyrgyz Internet news agency 24.kg before President Roza Otunbaeva's arrival, "Only the people can decide the question of my leaving office."

Many people now suspect the Myrzakmatov played some part in the June violence in his city and surrounding areas that left hundreds dead and led to widespread destruction of property, mainly belonging to the ethnic Uzbek community in Osh.

Myrzakmatov denied the accusations in an interview with RFE/RL on June 21, saying: "All the accusations against me are groundless. God will judge me."

President Otunbaeva and other officials in Bishkek have not tried to hide their dissatisfaction with the mayor, a fact that's not lost on Myrzakmatov. He told 24.kg that if Bishkek tried to remove him, he would call for a kuriltai, or grand public meeting, in Osh and allow the people to decide.

Myrzakmatov was quoted as saying, "We will invite . Roza Otunbaeva [and] we will invite the people, and let the people say if they want me to go or not."

Putting the question to the people might increase Myrzakmatov's chances of keeping his job.

The mayor's former deputy, Timur Kamchibekov, recently told RFE/RL that Myrzakmatov -- who was appointed by ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev -- managed to stay in office by calling a kuriltai the day after Bakiev was chased from power in April.

Kamchibekov says the mayor "gathered a group of his people, his supporters, his relatives and they demanded that Myrzakmatov [be kept on], that the people are for Melis Myrzakmatov and the people demand that he [continue] to work as mayor and not leave his post."

For his part, Myrzakmatov has called Kamchibekov "simply a psycho."

The Osh mayor and Bishkek have been at odds about a number of issues, the most contentious being the introduction of unarmed OSCE police for a limited period.

Otunbaeva has accepted the idea, while Myrzakmatov has voiced opposition to the plan but grudgingly gone along with it.

"This decision was made from above so of course we will cooperate, but the opinion of the majority of people here is against [OSCE police in Osh]," Myrzakmatov said.

Indeed, just hours before Otunbaeva's arrival in Osh, there were protests against the planned OSCE force.
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