Accessibility links

Kyrgyzstan Braces for Mass Opposition Protests


Opposition activists in Kyrgyzstan have launched rallies demanding early presidential elections and constitutional reform. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow reports demonstrators are expected to gather Wednesday in the capital, Bishkek - the site of mass looting and riots amid similar protests two years ago, which drove then-President Askar Akayev from power.

Traditional yurts (Kyrgyz felt tents) have already appeared on Bishkek's Central Square outside government headquarters, which was the scene of chaotic opposition protests in March 2005. Then, as now, opposition demonstrators accused the Kyrgyz president of corruption and called for new elections.

Sitting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has vowed to maintain stability during the protest actions. He also has ruled out acceptance of a draft constitution proposed by the more radical of Kyrgyzstan's two main opposition groups, For Reforms.

Kyrgyzstan's other lead opposition group, United Kyrgyzstan, broke away from For Reforms late last month, favoring dialogue over protests.

President Bakiyev continues to promise that constitutional reform will be carried out. But, as he put it, reform must be debated in parliament, not in the streets.

Late last week, Mr. Bakiyev's new prime minister, former opposition member Almaz Atambayev, voiced readiness for talks on reform with the opposition. But the offer was immediately rejected by opposition leader Felix Kulov, Bakiyev's former prime minister.

Kulov says this week's protests will show the opposition is weary of empty promises. He says demonstrators will now be calling for the immediate resignation of the president.

Bakiyev suffered another blow late last week, when Deputy Security Council Chief Alik Orozov resigned. Orozov said he stepped down to protest, what he called, Bakiyev's corrupt family and clan-style rule.

Meanwhile, more than 80 opposition activists enter a fifth day on hunger strike in tents pitched outside Kyrgyzstan's parliament Monday. The activists support the calls for early presidential elections to be held in Kyrgyzstan.

XS
SM
MD
LG