Two parliaments vie for power in Kyrgyzstan

 

President Askar Akayev, who fled the small former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan last week after protesters stormed his offices and brought down his government, is in talks with interim leaders seeking his resignation, it was reported today.

Kyrgyzstan's new parliament today approved Kurmanbek Bakiyev as prime minister, giving him greater legitimacy.

He was named acting prime minister and acting president last week by the old parliament.

Mr Akayev was holding talks with members of one of the two parliaments, which are competing for legitimacy, and with Mr Bakiyev, according to Mr Azimbek Beknazarov, the acting prosecutor-general.

He said Mr Akayev was "trying to influence the situation" from neighbouring Kazakhstan but that both the parliament and Mr Bakiyev were trying to persuade him to resign.

He did not provide details and the claim could not immediately be confirmed.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that Mr Akayev was in Russia.

Today's events added to the uncertainties plaguing Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished republic of 5 million, in the wake of Mr Akayev's forced ousting.

Earlier today, the lower chamber of the old parliament suspended its work in an apparent effort to try to resolve the dispute, but the body's upper house resisted.

In turn, the speaker of the new parliament said presidential elections set for June 26th by the competing body could be held only after consultations with Akayev.

The parliamentary dispute involves the old legislature and the new, whose members were chosen in elections this year that were widely alleged to have been manipulated, a vote that set off a wave of protests.

Both parliaments have been meeting in the same building. Increasingly, the tide of support among officials has been swinging toward the new parliament.

Mr Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, speaker of the old parliament's lower house, said today it was suspending its activity "in the interests of the people, and so that the acting president will not face two rival legislatures".

He called on the upper chamber to do the same. But that body showed little indication at the start of its session today that it intended to cede power, with lawmaker after lawmaker taking the podium to defend their legitimacy, saying they had the people's support.

"We are the legitimate parliament," said politician Mr Rustam Mananov. He said the lower chamber "betrayed the people" by suspending its work. A crowd of demonstrators opposed to the new parliament swelled outside the building's doors today, shouting at a line of Interior Ministry troops in helmets and volunteer security troops.

As the numbers grew to several hundred, the volunteer security troops said they had switched to the people's side and pledged not to let Mr Bakiyev or any of the newly elected MPs enter.

"Until yesterday, Bakiyev was the leader of a nation, but yesterday a counterrevolution happened," said protester Adylbek Kasimov, referring to the Central Election Commission's announcement recognising the new parliament.

"The new parliament is illegitimate. The dirty election is on their conscience."

After being named speaker of the new parliament, Mr Omurbek Tekebayev said he would set up a joint commission with Bakiyev's administration "to get out of the situation without conflict."

In fast-moving events unleashed on Thursday when protesters overran the presidential offices, the country's Supreme Court nullified this year's parliamentary elections, and the old parliament met to appoint interim leaders. But the bid by the new parliament - made up of wealthy businessmen - has thrust Kyrgyzstan's new leadership into turmoil.

It threatens to distract their efforts to fight poverty, corruption and repression - the opposition's main complaints against Mr Akayev.

Opposition-led protests began swelling in early March after the first round of the parliamentary elections, which the opposition said were manipulated by Akayev's regime to give him a compliant legislature.

Mr Akayev, 60, had led Kyrgyzstan since 1990, before it gained independence in the Soviet collapse. He was long considered the most democratic leader among the five ex-Soviet Central Asian nations but was accused of increasingly cracking down on dissent in recent years.

Kyrgyzstan hosts both US and Russian military bases and has aimed to cultivate good relations with both countries.

AP