Kyrgyz Violence Subjects Interim Government to New Threats
As the death toll grows, the most recent violence in southern Kyrgyzstan threatens both the legitimacy and the very existence of Roza Otunbayeva’s weak interim government. At least three destabilizing factors could further undermine its fragile hold on power:1) Only two weeks remain until the scheduled referendum, where Kyrgyz voters will be asked to approve a new constitution and accept Otunbayeva as president until the end of 2011.
- Under Kyrgyz law, a vote cannot be held during a state of emergency like the current one in Osh, declared on the morning of June 11 and scheduled to last until June 20. And, even if the referendum is held as scheduled on June 27, will it be considered legitimate if a significant segment of the population – in this case, ethnic Uzbeks – is too afraid to come out and vote?
- 2) What role has former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev played in the unrest and what role will he play in the coming days and weeks?
On June 12, via twitter, Bakiyev declared he’d like to resume power and take control of the situation. Blaming the interim government for the deaths, he tweeted, “We demand UN peacekeeping troops to come to Osh and return K. Bakiyev and his family to Kyrgyzstan. President Bakiyev must adjudicate the referendum.”Interim government leaders have accused Bakiyev’s family for inciting the unrest, adding that they were expecting disturbances before the referendum, but were surprised by how quickly they unfolded, Otunbaeva said on June 12, 24.kg reported. Acting Justice Minister Azimbek Beknazarov said people in Osh have been armed, at least in part, by gunmen who arrived on June 10 from Tajikistan, where Bakiyev’s brother Janysh, head of the security forces under Bakiyev, is rumored to be hiding.3) Moscow has thus far refused to send troops, calling the unrest an internal affair, but said it would intervene if its citizens are threatened. (This resembles its justification for getting involved in the 2008 war between Tbilisi and the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.) Meanwhile, growing numbers of ethnic Russians are trying to leave Kyrgyzstan. Up to 300 a day are applying at the Russian Embassy for emigration permits, a spokesman for Russia’s migration service said.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.