After surmounting months of political hurdles, Kyrgyzstan’s interim government faced a new test on August 5 as demonstrators clashed with security forces in a Bishkek suburb.
Protestors ignored a government ban and gathered to demand the leader of an obscure political party, controversial businessman Urmat Baryktabasov, be allowed to hold a demonstration in the center of the capital. Baryktabasov, wanted by authorities in both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, recently returned after five years in exile to lead the Meken-Tuu (“Banner of the Fatherland”) party. After days of speculation about the aims of the protest, approximately 1,000 demonstrators called on provisional President Roza Otunbayeva to fire her deputies and make Baryktabasov prime minister.
To avoid clashes, police allowed the procession of approximately 1,000 to assemble before parliament. Yet Interior Ministry forces stopped Baryktabasov and several hundred of his supporters when they attempted to enter Bishkek from the eastern town of Balykchi. Officials say the Balykchi demonstrators seized weapons from police the previous evening and that Baryktabasov was attempting a coup.
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David Trilling is the Central Asia new editor for EurasiaNet.org. Alina Dalbaeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.