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Asia

Kyrgyzstan's new government

The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan has been through an eventful year. After a long period of negotiations following the general elections, Kyrgyzstan now has a new government.

Almazbek Atambayev: the new prime minister of Kyrgyzstan

Almazbek Atambayev: the new prime minister of Kyrgyzstan

It has taken more than two months to form a government after the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan in October. There had been no clear winner, so three of the five parties in parliament had to join forces to form a coalition government.

However, Anna Kreikemeyer, an expert in Central Asian affairs at Hamburg University, thinks that given the extent of the crisis in Kyrgyzstan this has not been a very long time: "In a positive sense, this means that there have been intense negotiations and a struggle to accomodate contrary positions." Kyrgyzstan's President Bakiyev was overthrown in a popular revolt in April, and there were ethnic clashes between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority in June.

Unexpected coalition

Almazbek Atambayev (L) and Ata-Zhurt nationalist party leader Akhmatbek Keldibekov (R)

Atambayev (L) and Ata-Zhurt nationalist party leader Akhmatbek Keldibekov (R)

The government is lead by Almazbek Atambayev of the Social Democrats, a party close to interim President Roza Otunbayeva. But his coalition partners have come as a surprise: Besides the Respublika party, whose leader Omurbek Babanov is the deputy prime minister, they include Ata Zhurt, the nationalists who emerged as the strongest party in the elections and who many see as close to deposed President Bakiyev.

Ata Zhurt had campaigned against the new political system in Kyrgyzstan, which features a strong parliament and a less influential president. Therefore, it was not to be expected that they would take the post of speaker of the parliament.

Pragmatism

But Michael Laubsch, head of the NGO EurAsian Transition Group in Bonn, is cautiously optimistic: "It appears that the pragmatic forces in the party have gained the upper hand. But I think we'll have to wait and see what happens," he says.

"In a way it means more stability for the government that Ata Zhurt is represented because this party is particularly strong in the south of the country, the region where ethnic clashes began in June. So this can be called a government that really represents all the regions in Kyrgyzstan."

No common agenda

Parliament building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital

Parliament building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's capital

The coalition partners do not really have a common agenda. Anna Kreikemeyer sees the coalition deal as a pragmatic solution.

"We have a situation in Kyrgyzstan which is quite similar to Ukraine, where various oligarchs have also found it opportune to use political parties. There is either a big company behind a political party, or a clan of oligarchs. This is the way in which the parliamentary system is developing in Central Asia, or in the post-Soviet countries," Kreikemeyer explains.

Most observers agree that the new government is not likely to make any drastic foreign policy changes. Russia is going to remain an influential, close ally, but also the US military base in Kyrgyzstan is likely to stay at least for the coming years.

Author: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Shamil Shams

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