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Interview With Kyrgyz Presidential Candidate

In a little over a year, Kyrgyzstan will hold presidential elections. At present, only a few people have openly declared their candidacy. One of them is Kurmanbek Bakiev, a deputy in the Legislative Assembly and a former prime minister.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service: The bloc For People's Power has openly stated that it supports your candidacy in upcoming presidential elections. You've also said on numerous occasions that you plan to take part in the elections. What do you think the popular reaction has been to your candidacy?

Bakiev: I've seen in my own electoral district, as well as in other districts that I've visited, that people's attention is fixed not only on upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, but also on elections to local Keneshes [assemblies]. My colleagues, ministers, directors, and ordinary citizens of Kyrgyzstan are already getting ready for February 2005 elections to the Legislative Assembly. Presidential elections come after that. Wherever I go, people ask, "You've said that you're going to run for president. What exactly does that mean?" For my part, I reply that I've definitely said this and that, God willing, I'll participate in the presidential elections. If the people support me and we win, I have several goals I've set for myself. I hope that I'll be able to make them a reality.

RFE/RL: You've touched on the question of upcoming parliamentary elections. Today, representatives of the executive branch value seats in parliament more than the positions they currently occupy. And they've begun to take steps to secure themselves seats in parliament. What are we to make of this phenomenon? Or should we view it as a means of moving people out of the president's inner circle?

Bakiev: To be honest, there are two reasons for this. First, many of the faces have changed over the last 14 years. Whether they're governors, akims, or ministers, this makes them somewhat uneasy. They're well aware that the position they occupy is unstable and insecure. But if they come to parliament, then at least they'll have the possibility to work for five years. The second reason is that the new redaction of the constitution broadens the authority of parliamentarians. Thus, the higher the level of professionalism will be in parliament, the stronger they'll be.

RFE/RL: Let's go back to the topic of presidential elections. The president has said repeatedly that the new redaction of the constitution doesn't give him the right to run again. So the president assumes that he won't take part. But he's not very well-disposed to those who are preparing to run. You've advanced your candidacy. Doesn't the president's attitude, and the attitude of the executive branch in general, seem to indicate that they might be getting ready for another try at presidential elections? What do you think?

Bakiev: I can't say that the president is involved in such attempts. The president's entourage includes people who currently occupy high posts and are worried about what will happen tomorrow. They sense that some of them will remain, while others will depart after elections. I think that these are the people who are making the wrong moves -- removing some people from their positions, collecting compromising material on politicians who've announced their candidacy. This is the big problem with the president's inner circle. In my opinion, politics is politics, but people should still be people. Mainly, though, I'm glad to see that wherever I go, people's understanding of politics, the economy, and other areas has become clearer. That's why it's hard to deceive the people today with these petty things.

RFE/RL: A civil union "For Fair Elections" has been created. Its main goal is to ensure that the upcoming elections are held openly and fairly. Some experts also feel that this bloc was created especially to put forward its own candidate to be your competitor and divide your electorate. What is your view of what "For Fair Elections" has done?

Bakiev: I don't feel that this bloc was created to oppose me. Every citizen of Kyrgyzstan has to do a little bit to ensure that the elections are fair. The task is too large for any single civic union. According to the constitution, we have the Central Election Commission, as well as regional and local commissions. First, the task of holding fair elections falls to them. Second, there are the voters themselves and society. I think that voters shouldn't be indifferent. We will only win when voters feel more responsible. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that another such union might be created before the elections. This is a political campaign, and it should be understood as such.

RFE/RL: If the Constitutional Court rules that [current President] Askar Akaev can take part in elections, and if Akaev says that he plans to run and he asks you not to take part, how will you answer?

Bakiev: We call Kyrgyzstan a law-based, democratic state. Other colleagues of mine have offered themselves as alternatives to Akaev -- Almaz Atambaev, Omurbek Tekebaev. Now it's our turn. Let's let Bakiev try his hand at being a candidate. The rest will become clear in good time.