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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[13.06.2OO2] Kyrgyz opposition boycotts govt, plans protests. By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, June 13 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's fledgling opposition spurned the president's offer to help form a coalition government on Thursday and said it would organise massive new protests in the rebellious south.
Political tensions in the ex-Soviet Central Asian state have been running high since the government resigned last month over the deaths of five civilians in clashes with police in March.
President Askar Akayev acknowledged senior officials were to blame for the deaths when police opened fire on demonstrators.
Akayev, who has vast powers but faces rising discontent and weakening control over the impoverished south, has tried to placate the opposition by inviting it to join the new government. The last government resigned on May 22.
"They (the new cabinet) will have no real power. The presidential apparatus is still the only body in charge of politics and the economy," opposition deputy Azimbek Beknazarov told a news conference on Thursday.
It was Beknazarov's arrest which sparked the clashes, starting on March 17, that led to the five deaths.
"Officials have drawn no conclusions from the March 17 events. They have refused to talk to people," he said.
The opposition has branded new Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev a weak figure unable to resolve the country's social and economic crisis. No ministers have yet been appointed to work alongside Tanayev, who was handpicked by Akayev.
Beknazarov was a little-known investigator in a rural prosecutor's office before his arrest.
Last month his supporters blocked Kyrgyzstan's main north-south highway for almost two weeks, demanding punishment for those responsible for the bloodshed and Beknazarov's acquittal on a charge of abuse of office.
Beknazarov said 2,000 people had set out from the southern Aksy district in a new protest on Wednesday, aiming to build up numbers as they marched to Dzhalal Abad some 70 km (44 miles) away. He said they were expected to reach the city on Friday or Saturday.
Opposition deputy Zhyldyz Chingarayeva told the briefing the protesters also demanded Beknazarov's one-year prison sentence be overturned. Although he was not imprisoned, the fact he has been sentenced could cost him his place in parliament.
"We will wait until June 18," she said. "If our demands are not met, we will resort to action."
A police spokesman confirmed thousands were moving to Dzhalal Abad but said the march was quiet so far.
Akayev was once viewed by the West as the most liberal of ex-Soviet Central Asia's authoritarian rulers but is now criticised for his increasingly poor track record on democracy.
Reuters, June 13, 2002

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