City councilors in Kyrgyzstan’s capital voted in an impromptu session on July 13 to dismiss the mayor, thereby ejecting the final high-ranking ally of former President Almazbek Atambayev from office.
The motion to fire Albek Ibraimov was approved unanimously by all 40 councilors present, including those belonging to Atambayev’s own Social Democratic Party, or SDPK. This marks yet another defeat in the ongoing, behind-the-scenes battle for influence taking place between Atambayev and his successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.
Ibraimov, who went on holiday on July 10, did not attend the council hearing. Indeed, it was his absence that appears to have prompted the purported indignation that instigated his dismissal.
Explaining their decision, councillors said they did not want to “permit a worsening of the situation in the city.”
“We should be preparing for winter, for festivities. We have so many roads to complete. All this work should be done in summer,” city council chairman Almaz Kenenbayev told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, Radio Azattyk. “How should we consider his decision to go on holiday when all this work is still undone and the first deputy prime minister is under arrest. The head of the city should be a responsible person.”
While Ibraimov was unable to make his case before councillors, he did make a video appeal on Facebook, calling his dismissal a “political hit-job.”
Atambayev, who appointed him, agreed with that assessment, describing the council’s decision as “filthy harassment” and “political persecution.”
“Look at the dirt they are throwing, how they won’t let people work. Half a year this has been going on. Moreover, everybody in charge understands full well that none of this has anything to do with fighting against corruption,” Atambayev said.
Talk of corruption does not appear to have been included in the stated reason for Ibraimov’s dismissal. But Atambayev may have been alluding to the fact that the mayor was last month summoned by the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, for questioning as a witness in an ongoing investigation into commercial activities at the Dastan torpedo manufacturer, where he previously worked as chairman.
A final decision on Ibraimov will now be made by Prime Minister Mukhammedkaliy Abylgaziyev, who is an arch-loyalist of the current president.
Ibraimov had been in his post since 2016. His tenure was distinguished for the sweeping renovation of the city center and improvement of several key roads. His critics have complained, however, that this has come at the cost of chopping down vast numbers of trees, depriving the city of much of its cooling greenery.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Ibraimov’s downfall is that it signals Atambayev’s definitive loss of influence over the SDPK, a party he was instrumental in creating. The membership of the party is increasingly displaying loyalty to Jeenbekov. That much was clear when, earlier this year, SDPK MPs got behind the dismissals of the General Prosecutor, head of the GKNB and prime minister appointed by Atambayev.
Nurjamal Djanibekova is a journalist based in Bishkek.