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Qishloq Ovozi

Opposition party leaders and others politicians are now left to sort out the chaos that currently exists in Kyrgyzstan.

Thousands of angry protesters streamed into the streets of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and other towns and cities across the Central Asian country hours after preliminary results from the October 4 parliamentary elections gave pro-government parties nearly all of the seats in the 120-seat chamber.

Insisting the election had been bought by the winning parties, demonstrators stormed the presidential offices and parliament along with the state television headquarters, demanding the results be annulled.

Mass resignations across the country that included governors and mayors also saw the prime minister and parliament speaker give up their posts amid protesters' demands for fresh political officials and new elections.

Upheaval In Kyrgyzstan Follows Two Revolutions This Century
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President Soorobai Jeenbekov has not been seen in public since the crisis started and has failed to fill the massive power vacuum that has emerged. Opposition party leaders and others politicians are now left to sort out the chaos that currently exists in Kyrgyzstan.

Here are short descriptions of the main actors expected to resolve the country's most severe political crisis since a 2010 revolution overthrew the leadership (listed in alphabetical order):

MYKTYBEK ABDYLDAEV is a member of the outgoing parliament from the Bir Bol (Stay Together) party. He was not a candidate in the October 4 parliamentary elections. On October 6 he was elected parliament speaker at the same meeting of a few dozen deputies at Bishkek's Dostuk Hotel where Sadyr Japarov was named a candidate for prime minister. That election was disputed and rejected by other members of the outgoing parliament who did not attend the meeting at the hotel. Among the deputies supporting Abdyldaev's candidacy were Asylbek Jeenbekov and Iskender Matraimov. He is 67 years old.

JANAR AKAEV was the top candidate on the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party list during the now annulled October 4 parliamentary elections. Akaev has been extremely visible during the events that followed the announcement of the results of those elections, leading demonstrators on Ala-Too Square on October 5 and outside the government building later that day, where he was injured by a rubber bullet fired by security forces. Akaev also appeared at the first meeting on October 6 of the Coordination Council, a group trying to reform the government in the aftermath of the seizure of the parliament during the night of October 5-6.

A former RFE/RL journalist, Akaev was a spokesman for President Almazbek Atambaev. Akaev was elected to parliament in 2015 as a candidate from Atambaev's Social Democratic Party but was expelled by the party in March 2017 for his criticism of the government. He retained his seat in parliament and continued to speak out against corruption and ineffective governance. He is 33 years old.

KURSAN ASANOV was a candidate from the Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party in the October 4 parliamentary elections, in seventh place on the party's candidate list. Asanov was named the commandant of Bishkek on October 6 as disorder spread through the Kyrgyz capital.

He was a deputy interior minister known for his role in entering former President Almazbek Atambaev's compound when it was under siege in early August 2019 and talking Atambaev into surrendering. But he was relieved of his position for leaving his unit to negotiate with Atambaev. Many believed the government was making him a scapegoat for the botched government operation on Atambaev’s compound. He is 54 years old.

ALMAZBEK ATAMBAEV served as Kyrgyz president from 2011 to 2017. Also a former prime minister under President Kurmanbek Bakiev, he is a founder of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK). Atambaev was in prison during the October 5-6 events and was freed by protesters. He remains popular among some in Kyrgyzstan, one example being the Social Democrats party formed prior to parliamentary elections by Atambaev's son, Seyitbek, and some of Atambaev's strongest SDPK supporters.

Despite being imprisoned, Atambaev was included on many of the Social Democrats' campaign posters. Atambaev was convicted in June and imprisoned on corruption charges for his role in the illegal early release of an organized crime boss from prison. He faces other charges and was awaiting new trials.

Now that he is free, Atambaev's public feud with his successor, current President Jeenbekov, and equally public denunciations when he was president of former deputy Customs Service chief Raimbek Matraimov may help Atambaev's image if he seeks to return to politics. He is 64 years old.

OMURBEK BABANOV is a former prime minister, businessman, and ex-leader of the Respublika party. He ran for president against Jeenbekov in the 2017 presidential election. Babanov lost but received nearly 34 percent of the vote in an election in which many felt administrative resources played a key role in securing Jeenbekov's victory.

Babanov fled the country after the election when it became obvious he would be charged with inciting ethnic hatred for a campaign speech he gave. He returned in August 2019 after vowing to leave politics. But Babanov was visible in the days leading up the October 4 elections and openly endorsed his old party. He was present at the Coordination Council meeting on October 6. He is 50 years old.

SADYR JAPAROV was in prison when the October 5-6 events happened and was freed by protesters. At a session of a small group of parliamentary deputies held in Bishkek's Dostuk Hotel on October 6, Japarov was nominated to be prime minister. He was a supporter of President Kurmanbek Bakiev and served in the anti-corruption department during the last two years of Bakiev's presidency.

Japarov was elected to parliament twice, in 2005 and again in 2010. In 2013, during his second term as a deputy, Japarov and fellow deputies Kamchybek Tashiev and Talant Mamytov were tried on charges of trying to overthrow the government during violent demonstrations in Bishkek in October 2012. They were convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison but all three were released in July 2013.

But in October 2013, Japarov led a protest in the town of Karakol and took the provincial governor hostage. He was charged again but fled the country. He was detained in March 2017 when he returned from Kazakhstan and sentenced to 11 1/2 years in prison. He is 51 years old.

ASYLBEK JEENBEKOV is a member of the outgoing parliament and was a candidate from the Birimdik party in the October 4 parliamentary elections. Jeenbekov was elected to parliament in 2010 and 2015 and was parliament speaker from December 2011 to April 2016, when he resigned due to the promotion of his brother -- the current president -- to prime minister. He is 53 years old.

SOORONBAI JEENBEKOV was elected president in 2017, though there are accusations his ability to defeat main challenger Omurbek Babanov in the first round was due to the use of administrative resources by President Atambaev, who selected Jeenbekov to be his successor. Jeenbekov's brother, Asylbek, was a candidate for the Birimdik (Unity) party in the October 4 parliamentary elections and though President Jeenbekov repeatedly claimed to be impartial, accusations that Birimdik was benefiting from administrative resources inevitably led to the president.

Jeenbekov has not been seen publicly since the October 5-6 events and his current whereabouts are unknown, though his spokeswoman says he is in Bishkek and still carrying out the duties of his office. He has expressed a willingness in videos to meet with opposition party officials. Jeenbekov was the governor of Osh Province, leaving that position in 2016 to become prime minister. He is 62 years old.

ADAKHAN MADUMAROV is the leader of the Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party, the only opposition party that won seats in the October 4 parliamentary elections that have since been annulled. Madumarov and Butun Kyrgyzstan supported the protesters on Ala-Too Square on October 5.

Madumarov is one of the members of the Coordination Council that met on October 6. He is the former head of the Security Council. He founded Butun Kyrgyzstan in 2010. The party also took part in parliamentary elections in 2010 and 2015, but failed to win any seats. Madumarov has run for president twice, coming in second in 2011 and third in 2017. He is 55 years old.

Raimbek Matraimov
Raimbek Matraimov

MATRAIMOV BROTHERS: Raimbek, Iskender, and Tilek are three brothers of what is rumored to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Kyrgyzstan. Raimbek was a former deputy chief of the Customs Service and is also allegedly one of the leading crime bosses in the country, who was alleged to be funding the Mekenim (My Homeland) Kyrgyzstan party in the latest parliamentary elections.

Raimbek and his brothers have been the focus of several lengthy investigative reports from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Kyrgyzstan's independent Kloop news website, and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service (known locally as Azattyk).

Iskender is a member of the outgoing parliament and was a candidate from the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party in the October 4 parliamentary elections. Tilek has been the head of the Kara-Suu district in the southern Osh Province since 2012. He was detained on the Uzbek border as he tried to flee Kyrgyzstan on October 7. Raimbek is 49 years old, Tilek is 53, and Iskender will be 58 on October 9.

MELIS MYRZAKMATOV is the former mayor of Kyrgyzstan's second city, Osh, and held that post during the deadly ethnic violence in June 2010. In October 2015 he was convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in prison, but had fled the country. He flew from Turkey to Osh, arriving in the early morning of October 7, and immediately addressed a crowd of supporters, telling them Kyrgyzstan was "in a very dangerous situation."

Myrzakmatov was one of the only prominent officials from the Bakiev administration to retain his position after Bakiev fled the country in 2010. The government managed to fire Myrzakmatov in December 2013 after several unsuccessful attempts. His return now is not seen as a factor leading to stability. He is 51 years old.

KLARA SOORONKULOVA is a former judge at the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. She was fired from that post in June 2015 for opposing plans to collect fingerprints and biometric data from citizens as part of voter registration, but was subsequently widely praised by domestic rights activists.

Sooronkulova heads the Reforma party, one of the country's newest political parties, which comprises mainly younger activists and academics. Reforma received 1.67 percent of the vote in the October 4 parliamentary elections. Sooronkulova has been in public since the October 5-6 events, condemning the election results and calling for calm and consensus as events in the country became more chaotic. She is 51 years old.

OMURBEK SUVANALIEV was a candidate for the Butun Kyrgyzstan party in the October 4 parliamentary elections as No. 2 on the party's list. He stepped down as deputy chief of the Security Council before the elections.

Suvanaliyev has spent almost all of his career in the Interior Ministry. He made an unsuccessful bid for president in 2011 as an independent. In the aftermath of the storming of the parliament building on October 5-6 and in the absence of Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev, Suvanaliyev has tried to coordinate police and security force activities, enlisting the help of Deputy Interior Minister Almaz Orozaliev. He is 60 years old.

KAMCHYBEK TASHIEV is the leader of the Mekenchil (Patriotic) party and briefly joined the demonstration on Ala-Too Square on October 5. Since the events of the night of October 5-6, Tashiev has maintained a low profile, though he has been a controversial politician and was convicted with Sadyr Japarov (see above) for attempting to overthrow the government in October 2012. Tashiev was a parliament deputy for the Ata-Jurt party, which he founded in 2010 after President Bakiev was chased from power, serving as emergency situations minister for two years under Bakiev.

During the 2010 revolution, he supported Bakiev. Tashiev stepped down as head of the Ata-Jurt party in 2014 when it merged with the Respublika party led by businessman Omurbek Babanov. The two parties united to run in the 2015 parliamentary elections, coming in second (behind the SDPK) and taking 28 seats. The two parties split in 2016 but maintained their alliance within parliament. Tashiev is a firebrand politician, a former Soviet Army soldier, and ex-president of the Kyrgyz Boxing Federation.

He famously told a reporter from Eurasianet "I go to the gym very often -- to get my anger out on the punching bags" and once beat up a fellow lawmaker during a parliament session. He is 52 years old.

OMURBEK TEKEBAEV is the leader of the Ata-Meken party, one of the oldest political parties in Kyrgyzstan, which he founded in 1992. Tekebaev has been elected to every parliament in independent Kyrgyzstan except for the one elected in December 2007 snap elections. He was parliament speaker from March 2005 until February 2006, when he resigned after calling President Bakiev a "dog" and suggested he hang himself from the first tree he saw.

Tekebaev was an ally of President Atambaev during the 2010 revolution that ousted Bakiev and the two remained allies in forming the interim government that followed. Tekebaev fell out with Atambaev after the latter became president and Tekebaev began his own investigation into Atambaev's alleged assets outside Kyrgyzstan.

He was arrested in April 2017, charged with corruption and fraud, convicted in August 2017, and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in August 2019 but remains under house arrest. He did not run as a candidate in the October 4 parliamentary elections but campaigned with his Ata-Meken party. He is 61 years old.

TILEK TOKTOGAZIEV is a businessman and activist who was the No. 2 candidate on the Ata-Meken party list. On October 7, he announced he was prepared to form a new government and serve as prime minister. Toktogaziev said he was prepared to hold negotiations with another Coordination Council comprised of representatives from the Chong Kazat (Great Crusade), Yyman Nuru (Ray of Faith), Ordo (Horde), Meken Yntymagy (Homeland Security), and Reforma parties. He is 30 years old.

The protesters in Bishkek may not be satisfied by the same old faces taking over, yet again.

Kyrgyzstan is in the midst of its third major political upheaval since 2005 and the same important questions have arisen: Who will the new leaders be and how will they move the country forward?

This time however, it seems the "old" ways will not work.

Many supporters of the 12 opposition parties that took part in the October 4 parliamentary elections went to the polls to vote for changes in the leadership and changes in the way the country was run.

These voters were naturally disappointed that of the 16 parties competing, three of the four parties that won seats in those elections were pro-government parties that many in Kyrgyzstan felt attained victory by buying votes and using state resources.

One thing seemed sure to the Kyrgyz people and that was there wouldn't be any positive changes coming from a parliament packed with people loyal to the president or shadowy business figures and suspected criminal groups.

Barely 24 hours after the announcement of preliminary results from the vote, angry protesters had stormed the parliament building and state television headquarters, ransacked the president's office, and freed some high-profile prisoners.

Turmoil In Kyrgyzstan After Disputed Elections
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On October 6, a group of opposition leaders met and announced the formation of a Coordination Council comprised of representatives from eight of the 16 political parties that competed in the parliamentary elections.

The leader of Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan, Adakhan Madumarov, was chosen to head the council and standing beside him in photos were familiar faces from other political parties.

In some ways, maybe too familiar.

Familiar Faces, Yet Again

In March 2005, a genuine, popular revolution swept Kyrgyzstan's first president, Askar Akaev, from power.

Akaev had been gradually concentrating power into his hands and when two of his children ran for seats in parliament in the 2005 elections and a series of obstacles were thrown in the way of other candidates, it was too much for many Kyrgyz people to endure any longer.

No opposition parties led the protests that broke out. It was all accomplished by ordinary citizens with help from civil society groups and it eventually engulfed the entire country.

Opposition leaders tried to catch up and "ride the wave," so to speak, but when March 24 came and Akaev fled the country no leader leader had emerged as a guiding force for that revolution.

But it was opposition leaders who formed a new government.

In a process that is still unclear, a handful of these leaders selected former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev to be acting prime minister and later the main presidential candidate in early elections that Bakiev easily won in June 2005.

Bakiev in turn appointed other opposition leaders and veteran politicians to key posts in government.

But it was not long before many people saw there was no real change, as Bakiev began acquiring many of the same corrupt practices as the man he had replaced.

Some people even said Kyrgyzstan had simply exchanged "A," meaning Akaev, for "B," meaning Bakiev.

Kyrgyzstan did not seem to be any better off under Bakiev than it had been doing under Akaev, and Bakiev's habit of bringing cronies and family members into government -- such as putting his then-32-year-old son Maksim in charge of the country's economy -- made people start clamoring for change.

But the people generally making the decisions were the same names and faces people in Kyrgyzstan had known for many years.

Bakiev was ousted in the revolution of April 2010. That revolution was localized and primarily took place in two northern cities -- Bishkek and Talas -- in the span of a little more than 48 hours.

Kurmanbek Bakiev was a bit too much like his predecessor as president, and was ousted the same way.
Kurmanbek Bakiev was a bit too much like his predecessor as president, and was ousted the same way.

It had been stoked by opposition figures such as Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebaev and Social Democratic Party leader Almazbek Atambaev, and once Bakiev fled the capital and eventually the country, Tekebaev, Atambaev, former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva, and some other familiar top opposition figures took control.

The constitution was amended to give Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary form of government and some progress was made toward that end, but the overall system of government stayed mostly the same.

Kyrgyzstan plodded along from 2011 to 2017, when Atambaev was president, and the country continued on that course after Sooronbai Jeenbekov was elected president in 2017.

All that time those making the decisions were, once again, mostly the same names and faces people in Kyrgyzstan had known for many years.

Kyrgyz Revolution 3.0?

October 6 was a chaotic day in Bishkek. It is apparent no one is truly in control of the situation at the moment.

But in the confusion, there is also a danger that the changes many wanted when they voted will be ignored and that the new government could return to business as usual in Kyrgyzstan.

The Coordination Council shown in photos on October 6 is virtually all men.

Most of the politicians who dominated the news on that day were men and most were older men, some of them politicians released from prison earlier that morning -- such as disgraced former President Atambaev -- more than a few of whom were convicted for having committed crimes.

The old crowd seems to be rising to the top again, and once again many of them are the same names and faces people in Kyrgyzstan have known for many years.

It is no wonder, then, that several youth groups held a gathering on October 6 where supporters called for lustration and urged the people trying to form a new government to include more young people in the decision-making process.

The Bishkek Feminists wrote on Twitter that at least half of the population is women and they should therefore have 50 percent of the posts in any new government.

Business as usual has not helped Kyrgyzstan advance, and when the dust finally settles from this recent revolution it won't help the country achieve greater things.

There are some talented young men and women in politics in Kyrgyzstan.

Now is their moment and they need to be consulted and included in decisions being made during these days that will guide Kyrgyzstan well into the future.

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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