Kyrgyzstan: Can Parliament Keep the Blood Inside?
Kyrgyzstan’s politicians are no poster boys for a parliamentary system of governance. The country’s ruling coalition was already shaky before two feral members bloodied each other at an April 1 session of the national legislature. And the mayhem that dominated the day – including not just the brawl but a fiery speech by the recently sacked prosecutor general and a mysterious intervention into lawmakers’ work by unidentified thugs in tracksuits – does not bode well for stability in the violence-racked country.
Prior to the fight, ex-Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baibolov, fired a day earlier, defended himself before the deputies against allegations that his family members had improperly profited off the scandal-clad nationalization of Kyrgyzstan’s largest mobile services provider, Megacom. In his speech, he accused Deputy Prime Minister Omburbek Babanov, leader of the Respublika Party, and others of illegally profiting from the deal.
In response, several MPs demanded Babanov be suspended from his position pending an investigation.
One of them was Babanov’s long-time detractor Kamchybek Tashiev, whose powerful Ata-Jurt party belongs to the rickety three-party ruling coalition, which also includes Respublika. This time, Tashiev warned, if Babanov wasn’t properly investigated, Ata-Jurt would abandon the coalition, leaving the government to crumble. Because the threat was not Ata-Jurt’s first, one of Babanov’s allies told Tashiev, in no uncertain terms, to clam up and get out if he wanted to. Unprintable words and fisticuffs ensued.
Local media reports say that Tashiev, head of the country’s boxing federation and himself a seasoned pugilist with calloused knuckles, left the brawl with his face busted up. One or more other deputies apparently had some damage done to them as well.
At some point during this bedlam, tracksuited men sealed off the seventh floor of parliament and refused to admit deputies while the head of the State Committee on National Security (GKNB) met with their faction leaders. Perhaps, this was a response to several deputies’ demands that the head of the GKNB be suspended as well, for employing torture and illicit wire taps – allegations leveled by the ex-prosecutor, who has long been at odds with the security chief.
Whatever was really behind the events of April 1, instability is bound to continue: The people in power seem bent on using their positions to pursue personal interests that have little to do with their job descriptions – the same practice that triggered a lethal uprising a year ago.
Outside the parliament building, daily protests – easily manipulated by competing political factions – are picking up. The country is being seized by “the law of the crowd,” as one commentary calls it. Kyrgyzstan would be lucky if the fighting stayed inside this summer, but if the coalition does fall apart, there may be no arena left to contain it.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.