Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have to behave pretty badly before having to give up their seats.
Janybek Abirov, 34, managed to meet the bar earlier this month by instigating a bloody brawl at a restaurant that ended up with a security guard sustaining a concussion and a broken nose.
He might have got away with it too – Kyrgyz MPs are no strangers to punch-ups – except that the incident was caught on camera. Abirov tendered his resignation on March 27, a full two weeks after the fight occurred.
According to a police account, Abirov was one of a group of eight men to attack the two security guards. The victims of the assault did not file a complaint with the police, but the scandal gained momentum once President Sadyr Japarov got involved by ordering the Interior Ministry to investigate the matter.
“This behavior does not meet the ethical standards of a civil servant of his rank,” Japarov’s spokesman said with some considerable understatement.
Abirov ostensibly enjoys immunity from prosecution by virtue of his MP status. The Prosecutor General’s Office filed a request with parliament for that to be lifted so that he could be held accountable for his “hooliganism.”
The Jogorku Kenesh, as the Kyrgyz parliament is known, set up a commission to consider the matter, but they were in no hurry to throw their colleague to the wolves. One member of the commission, Zhusupbek Korgonbai uulu, told reporters that he personally saw nothing wrong with the fight.
“Abirov is not just some guy, some outcast. He’s a Kyrgyz patriot. He’s a good guy. What happened could have happened to anybody. Just you try and drink two liters of vodka, and then we’ll see what state you’ll be in,” Korgonbai uulu said.
It is not fully clear what Korgonbai uulu meant by those remarks, although they appear to suggest that he was under the impression that Abirov was heavily intoxicated at the time of the fight, and that he could not consequently be held responsible for his actions. Kyrgyz law does not, in fact, envision exemptions from prosecution for assault by reason of drunkenness.
With the pressure mounting, Abirov has decided not to delay the inevitable and will leave parliament of his own volition.
“Unfortunately, after what happened, I think that I have no moral right to hold the position of a deputy in the Jogorku Kenesh,” he wrote on Facebook.
This is a dismal end, for now, to a potentially promising political career. Abirov has a more notable profile than many other lawmakers. He became a member of the Bishkek city council in 2016 at the age of 28 and later became the chair of the council.
His father, Bolotbek Abirov, is a successful businessman with several companies to his name. One of those companies, Rassvet, had a contract supplying coal to a thermal power plant in Bishkek in 2018. The younger Abirov, who was already an MP by then, dismissed claims at the time that this constituted a conflict of interest.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.