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Compromise Kyrgyz Prime Minister Faces Tough Challenges In Divided Country

Some analysts think Jantoro Satybaldiev might be able to bridge the divides within the Kyrgyz parliament that have crippled recent cabinets.
Some analysts think Jantoro Satybaldiev might be able to bridge the divides within the Kyrgyz parliament that have crippled recent cabinets.
BISHKEK -- They say compromise is the genius of democracy -- so Jantoro Satybaldiev's confirmation as Kyrgyzstan's prime minister might just be what the country needs to get through the current crisis that threatens to tear it apart along north-south lines.

Satybaldiev is a 56-year-old career politician who has successfully navigated the treacherous waters of high-level Kyrgyz politics for 15 years. Not a member of any political party, he has held high positions under Presidents Askar Akaev, Kurmanbek Bakiev, Roza Otunbaeva, and Almazbek Atambaev.

Parliament deputy Omurbek Tekebaev, head of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) faction that recently formed a new ruling coalition with the Social Democratic and Ar-Namys (Dignity) parties, said this was exactly what the moment called for.

"He is an experienced, agile, even clever, diplomatic politician. The three most recent presidents have shown confidence in him," Tekebaev said. "I think these are the qualities that all Kyrgyzstan needs right now."

The key issue in Kyrgyzstan now is the rift between north and south, a tension that erupted into bloody riots between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh in June 2010.

Satybaldiev was born in Osh Oblast. He served as mayor of Osh in 2000-01 and as governor of Osh Oblast in 2006-07. Following the 2010 violence, he was given the delicate task of heading the government agency charged with rebuilding and developing the ravaged city.

But he has never been a member of the Respublika party, which has its base of support in the south and whose differences with Ar-Namys and Ata-Meken were the downfall of the last ruling coalition. Therefore, some analysts think he might be able to bridge the divides within the Kyrgyz parliament that have crippled recent cabinets.

Bridging The Rift

Independent journalist Turat Akimov says he agrees that Satybaldiev might be the ideal compromise figure. "He is not a contradictory bureaucrat. He is not an odious figure. He is a person who carried out the necessary directives after the events in the south -- and he did this well, I would say, and solved some big problems in the south," Akimov says.

"He is from the south himself. And all this is really important for Atambaev in order to stabilize the current situation so that parliament does not collapse."

In addition to the roles he has played in the south, Satybaldiev served in 2003-05 as the president's special representative on energy security. Tekebaev gives him considerable credit for pulling the country out of a serious electricity-supply crisis at that time. In the late 1990s, he served as minister for transport and communications.

Tekebaev is optimistic about Satybaldiev's appointment. "Satybaldiev doesn't have his own faction in parliament. He will be under the control of the president and the parliament," he says.

"If he does something wrong, no one will feel sorry for him. He has come into this difficult situation like a kamikaze and he understands the scope of his responsibility."

Written and translated by correspondent Robert Coalson, based on reporting by RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondents Burulkan Sarygulova and Bolot Kolbaev

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