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Osh Mayor's Party Wins Municipal Elections

  • RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov (right) votes in the March 4 municipal elections.

Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov (right) votes in the March 4 municipal elections.

The Uluttar Birimdigi (Unity of Nationalities) party Osh Mayor Melis Myrzakmatov helped create at the end of 2011 has won the most watched of the March 4 municipal elections in Kyrgyzstan.

With all the votes counted, results from the Central Election Commission show Uluttar Birimdigi taking 47.35 percent of the votes trailed by the Social Democratic Party with some 24 percent in Osh. That means Unity of Nationalities should take more than 20 of the 45 seats in the Osh city council, which names the city's mayor.

Myrzakmatov, who admits to being a Kyrgyz nationalist, has become extremely influential in Osh since former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev was ousted from power in April 2010. Bakiev appointed Myrzakmatov mayor of Osh and he retained his position as mayor after Bakiev's fall when a crowd led by Myrzakmatov's sportsmen-bodyguards called for him to stay on, a call the fledgling government in Bishkek, beset by problems, quietly accepted.

Less than two months later fighting broke out in Osh, and nearby Jalal-Abad, between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz resulting in the deaths of nearly 450 people.

Myrzakmatov has since carved out a personal sphere of influence in the Osh area. Attempts by Kyrgyz officials to detain Myrzakmatov at the Bishkek airport in August 2010 failed when the Osh mayor's bodyguards intervened. He returned to Osh vowing "northerners" in Bishkek would not dictate to people in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Last year Myrzakmatov pushed through measures with the Osh city council to create a flag and anthem specifically for the city. Last November he said he wanted Osh to have its own police force that would be independent of Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry.

Southern Center Of Opposition

Myrzakmatov's successful resistance to Bishkek has attracted members of the political opposition to ally themselves with the controversial mayor. A rally in Osh on March 1 drew thousands of people, mainly to publicly support Unity of Nationalities and Mayor Myrzakmatov.

Among them were two candidates from last October's presidential election. Adakhan Madumarov of the Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party and Kamchybek Tashiev of the Ata-Jurt party, who came in second and third, respectively, in the presidential election, were both at the March 1 rally.

Tashiev said ahead of the rallythat a new political movement would be established and "the main goal is to change the state's political system" and return Kyrgyzstan to a presidential system of government. A national referendum in June 2010 approved a parliamentary system of government.

Madumarov told the crowd at the March 1 rally that "due to the worsening of the social and economic situation in the country we demand that the government resign by March 15." Madumarov also said the "main goal of our rally is to support the team of the Osh mayor."

On March 4 in Osh, another leader of Ata-Jurt, Akhmatbek Keldibekov, accused authorities in Bishkek of using administrative resources to help the Social Democratic Party, which is also the party of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev.

The growing opposition to Atambaev in southern Kyrgyzstan comes at the same the Kremlin has shown displeasure with Atambaev's recent visit when the Kyrgyz president complained through Russian media about Russia's $15-million debt to Kyrgyzstan for use of a military base and comments that Kyrgyzstan is not a slave to any other country.

Russia has considerable influence in Kyrgyzstan. A Kremlin-backed media campaign against former Kyrgyz President Bakiev is credited with helping to bring Bakiev's government down. In response to Atambaev's remarks about Russia's debt, a Kremlin statement reminded that Kyrgyzstan owes Russia nearly $500 million.

With AKIpress and reporting