Mon, May 29, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Opposition to President Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan builds

SNOUT IN TROUGH The acquisitive president is facing mounting popular opposition to his 'crony capitalism' style of rule

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN

Demonstrators hold opposition parties' posters during a protest rally in Bishkek on Saturday. About 10,000 people rallied in Kyrgyzstan's capital to demand that the government undertake promised constitutional reforms, and battle crime and corruption in the nation's bureaucracy.

PHOTO: AP

Several thousand protesters on Saturday demanded an end to organized crime and corruption in government, as well as a reduction in the powers of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The protest, the second in a month, comes amid rising dissatisfaction with Bakiyev, who took over last spring after a popular uprising overthrew his predecessor. Before assuming office, Bakiyev said he would reform the Constitution to limit the powers of the president, but has not done so.

The crowd of around 10,000 gathered in the main square of the capital near the presidential offices carrying banners with slogans like "Constitutional Reforms Through Parliament" and "Yes to Democracy, Yes to Reforms!" The protest was orderly, and a large number of police officers roamed the periphery.

Bakiyev has the power to dissolve parliament, which he has threatened to do, and controls much of the country's media, both of which the protesters object to. But the group also wants to limit so-called "family businesses," or enterprises linked to the first family.

Reports of nepotism under former president Askar Akayev galvanized opposition to his rule and led to his ouster. Bakiyev is believed to have since taken over many of Akayev's assets.

The protesters read a list of demands, which included economic changes designed to address rampant unemployment and poverty in this remote, mountainous country.

"Today, we again give the authorities a deadline," said Kubatbek Baibolov, a lawmaker, setting a September target date for a new constitution. "However, if this time they do not take real steps to meet these demands, we retain the right to insist on tandem's resignation."

Baibolov was referring to the uneasy power-sharing agreement between Bakiyev and Prime Minister Felix Kulov. It is unclear how supportive Kulov is of the opposition, but he has made public statements indicating that he agrees with many of its criticisms of the administration.

Politics in Kyrgyzstan are tumultuous. Five prominent political figures have been assassinated in Bishkek in the past year, four of whom were parliamentarians.

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