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Tekebaev Says Kyrgyz Coalition Deal Up In The Air

Ata-Meken chief Omurbek Tekebaev at his Bishkek headquarters: "Nobody is taking us seriously yet."
BISHKEK -- The head of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken party, Omurbek Tekebaev, says his party has not joined official talks on forming a ruling coalition in Kyrgyzstan's new parliament.

Speaking to RFE/RL at Ata-Meken headquarters in Bishkek, Tekebaev said his party -- which finished last among the five parties to enter parliament -- has yet to be invited to any talks.

"We are the smallest party. Nobody is taking us seriously yet, so no one is holding any official talks with us," he said. "Unfortunately, all of a sudden we have turned from a large party into a small one. So we haven't received any proposals for official talks."

The country's October 10 elections marked Kyrgyzstan's emergence as the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region traditionally dominated by authoritarian presidents.

The results were announced November 1 after numerous delays in the vote count.

We will do all we can to preserve [the parliamentary system] as long as possible. But everything depends on the situation.
According to the final tally, Ata-Meken will hold 18 mandates in Kyrgyzstan's 120-seat parliament. It was widely expected to join two other parties -- the Social Democrats and Respublika -- to form a ruling coalition with 67 seats.

Despite his party's last-place finish, Tekebaev, a former speaker and longtime lawmaker, is considered one of the country's most seasoned politicians. He was assumed by many to be the likely choice for speaker of the new parliament.

Such a move, however, would be distasteful for neighboring Russia, which resents Tekebaev's leading role in pushing through this summer's constitutional referendum shifting Kyrgyzstan from a presidential to a parliamentary system.

Moscow is seen as deeply desirous of maintaining influence over Bishkek -- something that is more easily done via a single president than a diffuse group of lawmakers.

Parliamentary Experiment At Risk

In the past, Tekebaev has suggested that Ata-Meken will not join forces with the Social Democrats and Respublika unless he is given the speaker's post. Speaking today, however, he refused to comment on the possible composition of a coalition or his own future role within it.

A failure to strike a coalition deal and form a government could ultimately put Kyrgyzstan's nascent parliamentary experiment at risk if the country is forced to hold fresh elections.

The two parties expected to join the opposition -- the nationalist Ata-Jurt and the pro-Russia Ar-Namys -- are firmly opposed to the parliamentary system.

Any political deadlock could prove deeply unsettling in Kyrgyzstan, which saw President Kurmanbek Bakiev ousted in April, followed two months later by the death of at least 400 people in ethnic clashes in the country's south.

Tekebaev said today that he and other like-minded officials are hopeful that Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary democracy will survive.

"We will do all we can to preserve [the parliamentary system] as long as possible," Tekebaev said. "But everything depends on the situation. If our project is successful, the parliamentary system may spread to neighboring countries, too. If it fails, there may be some changes in the government system. But we hope we will succeed."