Kyrgyzstan: Prosecutor next for chop as ex-leader’s allies are removed
Indira Joldubayeva was a steadfast servant to the former president, dutifully prosecuting and suing his opponents.
The high-ranking holdover allies of Kyrgyzstan’s former president are tumbling like bowling pins.
According to an insistent drumbeat emerging from local media on April 10, incumbent President Sooronabai Jeenbekov is now bracing to dump the country’s top prosecutor. He has already got the scalps of several top security services officials.
The dismissal would be another unmistakeable slight against Almazbek Atambayev, who vacated his presidential throne in November in the sure certainty he would still be afforded informal father-of-the-nation status.
Not a bit of it.
Jeenbekov’s office reportedly lodged a proposal to fire Prosecutor General Indira Joldubayeva with a parliamentary committee, which swiftly gave the thumbs up.
Since taking up her post in 2014, Joldubayeva, a has proven a dependable and steadfast attack dog as Atambayev gradually assumed the authoritarian mien of previous national leaders. One opposition leader after another has been sentenced on flimsily investigated charges and impudent media have been bashed mercilessly with expensive libel suits.
Atambayev still has some friends in parliament, so the final plenary vote, slated for April 11, might have an atmosphere. (The choice of date is slightly cruel as Joldubayeva, an permanently unsmiling career functionary, turns 39).
Jeenbekov will need support from more than half the lawmakers in the 120-member parliament to complete the firing. But that may not be a difficult ask in a country where the executive tends to cast a long shadow over the legislature.
In case there was any doubt the move to eject Joldubayeva is intended as a tweak of Atambayev, a copy of the proposal to dismiss her formulated by the presidential administration and reproduced on the Kaktus Media news website argued that the chief prosecutor had failed to deal with growing corruption. Atambayev has claimed, quite bizarrely, that combating graft was one of the proudest legacies of his six-year rule.
None of this is quite going to plan. Atambayev’s idea was that he would leave office after his single term, as required by the constitution, and then hand over the reins to a reliable ally, Jeenbekov, whom he describes as a personal friend.
But Atambayev, a northerner, has grown increasingly uneasy as Jeenbekov, a southerner, looks determined to build his own power base and forge his own path. The back-up solution has been his reclamation of the leadership of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, or SDPK, which holds the largest bloc of seats in parliament and which could potentially reemerge as a counterweight to the president’s office.
Atambayev was eased into SDPK chairmanship after a March 31 party congress and quickly reprised his political bruiser routine in a briefing to the press, at times chiding Jeenbekov and at others patronizing him with unsolicited advice.
To begin with, the president’s office scoffed at the criticisms, describing Atambayev as predictable and “emotional.” And then a few days later, the cronies started getting flung out like drunks after last call.
On April 4, Jeenbekov fired Damir Musakeyev, the deputy head of the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB. He was a former security guard for Atambayev and, in a violation of the rules, even provided security for the SDPK congress. And then on April 7, it was the turn of GKNB chief Abdil Segizbayev to get the heave ho. Another GKNB deputy, Bolot Suyumbayev, also a former personal bodyguard to Atambayev, was sacked the same day.
Going further into the weeds of Kyrgyz politics, there is a curious aspect to this latest drama which indicates a potential reformatting of the scene may be underway. The impetus for Joldubayeva’s dismissal came from opposition parties Ata-Meken and Respublika/Ata-Jurt's refusal to approve her annual report in a parliamentary vote.
Both of those fronts were formed by men who emerged as bitter rivals to Atambayev and who paid a high price for their opposition.
Respublika – the slicker, more business-oriented half of the Respublika/Ata-Jurt tandem – was the brainchild of tycoon Omurbek Babanov, who stood and lost against Jeenbekov in October’s presidential elections. After criminal probes were filed against him, Babanov hastily relinquished control of his party and scuttled away to foreign shores.
Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev might also have taken part in the presidential vote had he not been sentenced to an eight-year jail sentence on suspect corruption charges a few months previously.
Both men’s downfalls were engineered and executed by people now bereft of power, so it will be interesting to see if and how their fates could change.
Assuming Joldubayeva is dismissed, attention will inexorably turn to another key Atambayev buddy, Interior Minister Ulan Israilov. In a pattern that sheds light on the former leader’s cadre recruitment policy, it should be noted that Israilov too worked as a bodyguard for Atambayev.
The omens are not looking great for him either.
Like Atambayev, Israilov failed to turn up at the annual ceremony to mark the anniversary of the revolution of April 7, 2010, when dozens of protesters were shot dead by government troops on Bishkek’s main square as they mounted a rage-filled rally against the president of the time. The anniversary has steadily become one of Kyrgyzstan’s most somber and hallowed national holidays and snubbing invitations to attend the memorial ceremony does not go unnoticed.
Atambayev’s office feebly claimed he was too poorly to attend, but what was Israilov’s excuse?
Correction: This piece was updated to correct the number of MPs required to approve the dismissal of the general prosecutor.