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Kyrgyz Parliament Convenes Amid Third Day of Growing Protests

Kyrgyzstan's parliament has finally gathered a quorum to meet, amid a third day of anti-government protests outside parliament, sparked by last week's murder of a lawmaker Tynychbek Akmatbayev. A pro-government group is also in the streets, to urge the new government to move quickly to bring the situation under control.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament managed to convene Tuesday, helping give credence to government claims that the situation inside the country is under control, despite growing rival demonstrations in the capital.

The protests in Bishkek, both for and against the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, are now in their third day and have done much to disrupt the regular workings of parliament, which had been scheduled to meet to discuss social and economic concerns.

Outside parliament, anti-government demonstrators have gathered by the hundreds to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Felix Kulov. The demonstrators hold Mr. Kulov responsible for last week's death of a lawmaker during an inspection visit to a local prison. During that visit, riots broke out among the inmates and the lawmaker

was killed.

Some 200 yards away from the demonstrations, a rival group of government supporters came out Tuesday, amid fears the government is not doing enough to bring the situation to a quick close.

The Bishkek-based country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Kumar

Bekbalatov, says the situation unfolding in Bishkek is one of dire concern.

"It is a big threat to stability now and it can have very serious consequences because the protestors are not calling for the resignation of the prime minister only," he said. "They also want to have the parliament dissolved. And, they blame the speaker of the parliament as well. And, some other forces have joined the demonstrators. And, if the government resigns, then basically it means a very long spiral of instability, which the country may not survive."

Mr. Bekbalatov says the protests also pose serious political problems for lawmakers, beyond the obvious disruptions to their agenda.

"Each of the deputies feel somewhat threatened by the demonstrations. They see that it is the third deputy who has been killed in the last six months and each of them has worries about [his] personal security. And, they are now between two fires basically," he added. "Even if they decide to consider the issue of Kulov's resignation, it might trigger and is already triggering, a wave of popular discontent with the parliament. At the same time, parliament cannot just ignore the demonstrations, which [have] basically stranded all of parliament's activities."

Mr. Bekbalatov says it is hard to pinpoint exactly why this crisis has arisen at this time. But he says it is important to remember that the current government literally came to power in one day, on the strength of large and violent street protests, which ended with the storming of parliament. Then-president Askar Akayev was forced to flee to Russia, where he has lived in exile ever since.

The earlier protests were sparked, in part, by large-scale discontent over widespread poverty and corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

Parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev says, under Kyrgyz law, only the president can dismiss the prime minister, who was just sworn in two months ago.

The recent protests are also drawing some comparisons to the recent political infighting in Ukraine, which led President Viktor Yushchenko to dissolve parliament after just seven months in office. In this case, Mr. Bekbalatov of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting is not as optimistic a similar solution can be applied. He says the only way everyone in Kyrgyzstan will win, is if the government holds firm in securing law and order and moves forward with its plans to better peoples lives.