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Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek Prepares For Large Opposition Rally

President Bakiev (right) and Prime Minister Kulov (file photo) (AFP) Authorities, police, and the residents of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek are bracing themselves for a large demonstration that the opposition has called for November 2. The For Reforms movement hopes at least 10,000 people will gather outside the government building in Bishkek to demand constitutional and other reforms and, probably, the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

PRAGUE, November 1, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- With the opposition vowing to demonstrate for their demands as long as necessary, Kyrgyzstan's government released a statement today that begins with: "Kyrgyzstan is going through one of the most crucial moments in its history."

The government statement adds that "the government calls for wisdom, dialogue, and cooperation from all political forces with the goal of preserving peace and stability for the sake of the future democracy and civilized development of Kyrgyzstan."

"The use of force to resolve the political crisis will not solve anything, because the problem -- in the final analysis -- is not in a conflict of personalities but in the difficulties of the transitional period."

Resolve Or Resign

Also today, 25 of Kyrgyzstan's 71 lawmakers issued an appeal calling on President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov to step down if no solution to the current dispute over constitutional and other reforms is found by November 2.

The heart of the problem is the slow pace of promised state reforms and what the opposition perceives as a reluctance on the part of Bakiev to select a new constitution from the several draft versions now available. Bakiev and other high-level government officials met with representatives of the opposition yesterday twice and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to find a compromise ahead of the mass rally.

Omurbek Tekebaev, one of the leaders of the For Reforms movement and the head of the opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, was one of the opposition leaders who met with Bakiev and other government officials yesterday. After the second meeting, Tekebaev spoke to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

"We didn't reach any results," he said. "The current leadership is not ready to accept most of the demands put forward by the For Reforms movement. This is why we will maintain [our demands]. We call upon all our supporters to come and join the protest rally that will take place on Bishkek's central square on November 2. We are ready to support our [main] demand, which is that the leading tandem (Bakiev and Premier Kulov) should implement reforms or resign."

Not Enough Agreement

Another For Reforms leader, Melis Eshimkanov, who was also at the meetings, indicated that while some progress was made, the two sides remain far away from a general compromise.

"[President Bakiev] gave his verbal agreement to two out of our 10 demands," he said. "First, he said that he will propose the draft constitution that had been agreed on by us and prepared together with our group. The draft broadens the power of the parliament. Secondly, he agreed to make the Kyrgyz State TV and Radio Company a public company. But as for the rest of the demands, including his [reported] family business and other issues, he said he is not ready to resolve them."

The demonstration has received wide publicity and people from various parts of the country are reportedly headed to Bishkek to take part in the rally. Like Adilet Aitikeev from northern Kyrgyzstan, who told RFE/RL why he is going to Bishkek.

"[The rally] is demanding not only the resignation of Bakiev, but also the removal of all of [former Kyrgyz President Askar] Akaev's system," he said. "This is the essence of the rally. This is our goal."

Many of the current government officials who came to power after last year's Tulip Revolution were themselves former officials under Akaev. Among them are President Bakiev, who served as prime minister, and Kulov, who was vice president and served in several other positions under Akaev.

Meilikan Emilbaeva, head of the Osh branch of Tekebaev's Ata-Meken party, is also en route to Bishkek for the November 2 rally.

Protesters Streaming In

"Fifty party delegates came from the Osh region," she said. "We support the main demands [of the opposition], especially, regarding constitutional reforms and fighting corruption."

Some traveling to Bishkek are more interested in expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of life in their part of the country rather than to protest for constitutional and other reforms.

Police and security forces in Bishkek have issued numerous warnings to demonstrators that disorder will not be tolerated and will be put down using force if necessary.

When Kulov addressed his Ar-Namys (Dignity) party yesterday he spoke against rash actions that could worsen the situation in the country.

"The use of force to resolve the political crisis will not solve anything, because the problem -- in the final analysis -- is not in a conflict of personalities but in the difficulties of the transitional period," he said.

Some store and restaurant owners in Bishkek's center near where the demonstration will be held were removing goods from the shelves and vowing to keep their businesses locked up on November 2.

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, the chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called on October 31 for Kyrgyz authorities and opposition parties to show restraint during the demonstration.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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