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Kyrgyzstan: With No Akaev Resignation Yet, New Leadership Considers Impeachment

President Akaev: facing impeachment? One week after the Kyrgyz revolution, the status of ousted President Askar Akaev remains unclear. International bodies like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have pressed for a quick resolution to the issue, to avoid having the interim Kyrgyz leadership from acting in a legal vacuum. But Akayev so far has refused to resign. The new authorities are now looking for ways to impeach the ousted leader, in order to put an end to the growing legitimacy conflict.

Prague, 1 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Akaev says he may agree to resign -- but only under certain conditions.

This means the new government established after Akaev's 24 March ouster is officially illegitimate.

The provisional government, led by interim president and prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, is, understandably, looking for ways to end the situation.

Today, Bakiev said the Kyrgyz parliament should form a special commission to negotiate with Akaev about his security guarantees. But the new authorities are also exploring another option for establishing their legitimacy -- impeaching Akaev.
Many people say impeachment would be the best way to resolve the current legitimacy crisis, as it would help soothe public discontent.

Under Kyrgyz law, the parliament has the power to impeach the president if they find him guilty of either state treason or criminal behavior.

The interim prosecutor-general, Azimbek Beknazarov, said on 31 March that assets allegedly belonging to Akaev and his family had been frozen:

“All suspicious bank accounts are being frozen. For example, following a court decision, shares of the BiTel [mobile network operator] were frozen," Beknazarov said. "We also gave an order to the Chui Region prosecutor’s office to step up security around the Kant cement-slate plant in order to prevent looting."

Many in Kyrgyzstan believe Akaev and his family members enjoyed control over an extensive part of the national economy.

An article today in Russia’s “Vedomosti” daily reported BiTel is Kyrgyzstan's biggest mobile-phone operator, controlling some 90 percent of the market and boasting a value of between $150 million-$200 million.

BiTel is believed to be controlled by the ousted president's elder son Aydar; the Kant plant by his son-in-law, Adil Toygonbaev.

Kyrgyz media is reporting the Akaev family has taken steps to shed their Kyrgyz property quickly. Such reports have stirred public resentment about Akaev.

For that reason, Bakiev has warned Akaev to stay out of Kyrgyzstan. Bakiev told the Interfax news agency Akaev's presence in the country -- even "for five or 10 minutes" -- would only heighten the feeling of anger among Kyrgyz citizens.

Many people say impeachment would be the best way to resolve the current legitimacy crisis, as it would help soothe public discontent.

Aalybek Akunov, a political analyst at the OSCE Academy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, told RFE/RL that impeachment is simply the most realistic option.

He said it is difficult to imagine a negotiated settlement could be made, given Akaev's growing unpopularity: “I think [negotiations about Akaev's privileges for his post-presidency life] would go on for a very long time. There will be many debates and arguments, because there are many people who will protest giving Akaev any privileges as an ex-president.”

The online publication reported today that several Kyrgyz nongovernmental organizations have also called on the new leadership to impeach Akaev.

Anger toward Akaev and his family is especially strong among participants in last week's revolution.

The Birge (Together) youth organization, whose members were among those storming the government headquarters on 24 March -- today announced it was launching a campaign to collect money for Akaev's gravestone.

Some experts believe the new Kyrgyz leadership has not yet made a final decision on whether to impeach Akaev or negotiate with him. Aleksei Malashenko, the Central Asia expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center is one of them.

“It’s not clear which way the opposition [the new Kyrgyz leadership] will choose to go," Malashenko said. "They talk about legitimacy, but they have to take the true situation into account. Their position is very ambivalent. It’s very difficult to choose one path or another. Besides, Europe insists on legitimacy, even though it’s not very clear what legitimacy means [in this case]. Russia doesn’t call Akaev president, but it is Moscow where Akaev is staying as he continues to claim to be the president."

Akunov, the Bishkek-based political analyst, believes that by launching investigation into Akaev and his family, members of the new leadership like Beknazarov may gain more political capital:

“I think [Beknazarov’s] step is very far-sighted," Akunov said. " On the one hand, he gains political capital. On the other, he hints that even after [Akaev] steps down, the issue of ex-presidential privileges may be revised. [Beknazarov] is reminding us that any decision made in the near future on [Akaev's] privileges may not necessarily be the final decision. It will be up for review."

The head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Dimitrij Rupel, said during his visit on 31 March to Bishkek that Akaev's presidency should be, in his words, "formally concluded as soon as possible."

Ukrainian and Georgian officials visiting Kyrgyzstan the same day offered their assistance on finding a legitimate way out of the crisis.

For more background on the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, see RFE/RL's dedicated website Revolution In Kyrgyzstan

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