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No Love Lost for Akayev in his Birthplace

Askar Akayev (File photo)
A visit to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev's hometown provides a good view of his growing unpopularity with the people, despite his reputation as one of the most liberal leaders in Central Asia.

On the dusty, sun-baked backstreets of Kemin, Kyrgyzstan, groups of unemployed men, looking far older than their years, cluster together in conversation.

The men have a lot to talk about given the events of the past week in the capital, Bishkek, where persistent poverty and anger over disputed parliamentary elections, erupted into the storming of government headquarters.

What followed next - two days of widespread looting and unrest - seemed to take everyone in the nation by surprise, including Mr. Akayev, who fled to Russia.

This man, a former veterinarian who is now unemployed, told VOA he can never forgive such cowardice.

The man says Mr. Akayev promised to protect and uphold the Constitution and the nation, when he took the presidential oath of office more than a decade ago. He says he broke that promise, leaving the fate of the country to a few hundred policemen, who quickly sided with the demonstrators.

It is no wonder, the man says, that many people in our village now support the new acting leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

"I do not care if Mr. Akayev ever returns here", he adds, as others nod their heads in agreement.

Another man said that if Mr. Akayev likes Russia so much, he should just stay there.

"If President Vladimir Putin wants to help Mr. Akayev, let him," he said. But he adds "[Mr.] Akayev is not helping us. He is just helping those people close to him, like his wife and children. Akayev does not matter for us."

A third unemployed man had still another view. He said he wished President Akayev had just transferred his power to someone else ahead of the storming, when it became apparent he had lost popular support.

Even at Kemin's sleepy local administrative headquarters, there were no visible Akayev backers.

The Deputy Chief of the local government only agreed to speak on background, and on condition of anonymity. According to the chief, local services in Kemin have not been interrupted, despite the lack of support and communications from pro-Akayev forces.

At the same time, the chief adds that the new acting government has been in touch to change the local governor of Kemin.

But for the people of Kemin, whose daily wage is equivalent to $1 or less, the priorities are much more immediate than politics. They want decent jobs, decent wages, and the hope for a better future.

This taxi driver says it does not matter to him who is president, Mr. Akayev, or Mr. Bakiyev. Nor, does it matter, he adds, whether he is from the north or the south.

He says simply, " I want a president who works for the nation, and peace and stability."