Kyrgyzstan: Coalition Building Sidetracked by Trafficking Allegations
President Almazbek Atambayev formally called on his Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) to form a new parliamentary coalition on December 8. But the process has already taken a nasty turn.
Parliament is locked in examination of an alleged New Year’s meeting between Speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov and Kamchy Kolbayev, a notorious underworld boss allegedly involved in trafficking Afghan heroin.
Keldibekov and Kolbayev, the story goes, wined and dined at the elite Kapriz ski-lodge hotel near Karakol on New Year’s Day 2011. The Ministry of Interior, led by Atambayev loyalist Zarylbek Rysaliev, has confirmed the meeting, but the National Security Service, GKNB (the head of which Atambayev only replaced this week), has not.
The original charges were leveled against Keldibekov, who is a member of the largest party in parliament, Ata-Jurt, by opposition party Ata-Meken last week. As is common in Kyrgyzstan, Keldibekov’s offended supporters responded by staging protests and blocking roads in his home district of Alai, in the south. Parliament has proceeded unfazed: A specially formed parliamentary commission is now researching the accusations, and a vote of no confidence is scheduled for December 12.
Allegations of connections with drug trafficking are frequently deployed for political gain in Kyrgyzstan, and this looks like no exception. The ruling coalition of “Unity and Development,” formed last December by Keldibekov’s Ata-Jurt, Atambayev’s SDPK, and Respublika, fell as expected December 2 when SDPK withdrew, citing irreconcilable differences with Ata-Jurt.
Now Ata-Meken appears to be angling to replace Ata-Jurt in a future ruling coalition. SDPK, meanwhile, is happy to let Ata-Meken do the dirty work by weakening or eliminating its main rival.
Among the five parties in parliament, Ata-Jurt is perceived as representing loyalists to ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the south of the country. When the coalition was formed last December, observers saw Ata-Jurt's inclusion as an attempt to avert further violence in the south.
If Ata-Jurt is pushed into opposition and parties perceived to represent the north – SDPK, Respublika, and Ata-Meken – control both the parliament and the president’s office, expect Kyrgyzstan’s already fractious politics to get even more confrontational in the new year.