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Kyrgyzstan: New Political Bloc Combines Narrow Agenda, Broad Membership

An anti-Kulov demonstrator packs his bags after an October rally (RFE/RL) A new political bloc was founded earlier this month in Kyrgyzstan with the declared goal of overhauling the country's political system. The People's Coalition of Democratic Forces aims to push the new government to reform the country's constitution and transform Kyrgyzstan from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government. Despite its seemingly singular purpose, the group is composed of opposition groups representing a wide range of views. As a result, the bloc might have a hard time reaching a consensus within its own ranks.

21 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Widespread protests in March 2005 ousted long-time Kyrgyz leader Askar Akaev and ushered many former government officials-turned-opposition leaders back into power. The erstwhile opposition was initially united in its support of new President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his prime minister, Feliks Kulov. But nearly 10 months after the popular revolution, the newly formed People's Coalition of Democratic Forces is demanding that the government implement the reforms it has promised.

Ishenbai Abdyrazakov is the leader of the Justice and Progress Party, which is not in the new alliance. However, he supported the creation of the new bloc. He tells RFE/RL that he sees a need for continued political opposition in Kyrgyzstan, and expresses doubt about the government's intentions with respect to reform.

"It seems that those in power are not very interested in changing the constitution," Abdyrazakov says. "There are some new proposals, and they are not looking at these very carefully. The authorities are dragging out the process for their own purposes."

Keneshbek Duishebaev is the leader of the Akyikat (Justice) Party, which also elected to stay out of the new coalition. Duishebaev served as interior minister for the last two days of the Akaev administration and competed against Bakiev in last July's presidential elections. He says the new government simply was not helping the country.

"There are deficits in the economic sphere, a decline in the standard of living for the population and in the political program many things have been left unresolved," Duishebaev says. "All this taken together creates the need for a new political force."

The People's Coalition of Democratic Forces allies seven political parties, two political blocs, and nine nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). As a result, the group could exert considerable influence on Kyrgyz politics.

But there are concerns that its goals could prove difficult to achieve, as some groups stand in clear opposition to President Bakiev, while others have members in the government. The Ar-Namys (Dignity) party is part of the coalition, for instance, but that party's leader is Prime Minister Kulov. Ar-Namys legislator Emil Aliev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service there will be no conflict of interest and that Ar-Namys will not serve Kulov's interests in its coalition work.

Erkindik leader Topchubek Turgunaliev says there is no problem in some members of the coalition seeking to work closely with the government. But he also suggests there are some members of the new coalition who are pursuing their own goals.

"Among the opposition groups, of course, there are figures who are ready to work constructively with the authorities," Turgunaliev says. "But there is also another group that will use any means to gain presidential power. Among them are figures who claim the country is on the verge of civil war and regional fracturing and that the current government is not fit to run the country. These people are not constructive opposition. They want to stage a counterrevolution."

Bakyt Beshimov is an academic and a senior member of the new coalition's leadership. He says that, in any case, it is healthy for a country to have a political opposition.

"In any state, as in Kyrgyzstan, in order for democracy to develop there should be a constructive opposition," Beshimov says. "In my opinion, the creation of a constructive opposition is the first step. We should be in opposition to forces that keep Kyrgyzstan on its previous [Akaev-era] course and want to keep things as they were."

Other opposition groups might well emerge in the near term in Kyrgyzstan -- particularly if the country continues to suffer through hard economic times. A number of well-known opposition leaders remain outside the new coalition. They are sure to follow the activities of the People's Coalition of Democratic Forces, waiting to decide whether to join the group or oppose the new government on their own -- just as they did against the Akaev government.

(Tynchtykbek Tchoroev and Amirbek Usmonov of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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