A new law in Kyrgyzstan that guarantees immunity from prosecution for the president has spurred speculation over whether incumbent chief executive, Askar Akayev, is planning to retire. Meanwhile, passage of the law has widened rifts within the political opposition.
The law, approved by parliament June 26, grants lifelong immunity to Akayev, and to two former Communist Party bosses Absamat Masaliev and Turdakun Usubaliev who led the Kyrgyz Republic during the Soviet era. The law covers all activities by the leaders while in office.
The legislation also grants Akayev lifelong privileges, including a permanent seat on the country's National Security Council, a pension equivalent to 80 percent of his presidential salary, and a car and driver. He also retains the right to live in his official residences, both in Bishkek and in the Issyk-Kul resort area. In addition, the state will pay his direct family members an annual stipend, as well as cover medical and communications costs.
Observers suggest that parliament adopted the law in order to create a "protected exit strategy" for Akayev, providing an incentive for the president to step down when his current term expires. The president has promised not to run for another term, but some members of the country's political elite have questioned whether Akayev is indeed committed to his pledge not to run for reelection in 2005.
Making it potentially easier for Akayev to make another presidential bid is the fact that his political opposition is fragmented. About a year ago, during the height of protests stemming from the Aksy riot, Akayev's authority appeared in jeopardy. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In the months since a February referendum, however, Akayev has reestablished his political supremacy. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives].
The law on executive immunity has exacerbated differences within the opposition camp. Some opposition leaders have condemned the measure, while others have supported it as a means of promoting Akayev's departure from office.
"All deputies decided to give Akayev a chance to leave voluntarily, that's why they unanimously voted
Alisher Khamidov is a Muskie Fellow at Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University.