Is Bakiyev Renewing Attacks on the Opposition?
Almost a month since opposition protests prompted a political crisis in Kyrgyzstan, it appears that president Bakiyev may be launching renewed attacks on the country’s opposition. These renewed attacks began about a week ago when Bakyt Kalpetov of Omurbek Tekebayev’s “Ata-Meken” party was arrested under accusations that he had attacked the General Director of Kyrgyz State Television during the events of early November. While Kalpetov was released from custody earlier this week, he was again incarcerated on Friday. Meanwhile, the General Director of Bishkek’s pro-opposition television station, NTS, has also been brought into the offices of the local SNB for questioning concerning some unspecified charges against unnamed people being accused of trying to forcibly overthrow the government early this November. In addition to these events, there are reports that Edil Baisalov, Director of the Coalition of NGOs for Democracy and Civil Society, has once again been physically attacked by unknown assailants, this time in the Osh airport on Thursday evening. While it appears that the attack did not cause severe injury, the assailant made away with Edil’s suitcase, the contents of which included one of the drafts of the new constitution. Finally, on Friday, the wife of Omurbek Abdurakhmanov, coordinator of the “For Reform” coalition that organized protests in early November, was detained briefly by the financial police, which appeared ready to arrest her. In addition to all of these specific incidents, the Ata-Meken party has suggested that its supporters who work for government organs are the target of unspecified harassment by the presidential administration.
The simultaneous nature of all of these events suggests that some people in the presidential administration, or perhaps President Bakiyev himself, may be trying to send a message to the opposition. If this is the case, it may be a very dangerous tactic for Bakiyev, whose alleged implication in Omurbek Tekebayev’s detainment in Warsaw resulted in the intense protests of early November. If this is the hand of the state, it is unlikely to have its desired effect of disempowering the opposition. Rather, it would be most likely to intensify the opposition’s position that Bakiyev must be removed. Despite the lessons of March 2005 when Akayev was deposed or those from this past November when it seemed that only political compromise could prevent crisis, it seems that the Kyrgyzstan leadership is resorting to old tactics that have mostly proven disastrous. Maybe it is true what they say about teaching old dogs new tricks.