Kyrgyzstan: ex-President Atambayev makes comeback to politics

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev (official photo)

BISHKEK (TCA) — Ex-President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev has reinstated his leadership of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) after delegates of the 17th SDPK congress held on March 31 elected Atambayev the party chairman.

Atambayev headed the party from its creation in October 1993 until the end of 2011, when he suspended his membership after becoming President of the Kyrgyz Republic. Since then, the chairman’s seat remained vacant.

SDPK is the largest pro-presidential political party in Kyrgyzstan, created by Atambayev himself.

Back to politics

On March 31, Atambayev first appeared in public after his resignation, to hold a press conference following the results of the SDPK congress.

He “has to engage in politics again,” Atambayev said. He intends to tackle the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020 and will assist the incumbent President Jeenbekov in his work. However, he does not plan to hold any public office.

“After the amendments to the Constitution came into force, the transition from the presidential republic to a parliamentary one began, and it is a test for any president,” said Atambayev. “Our task is to help President Jeenbekov, but not to praise his every action. We must say tough words,” he added.

“Some think that Atambayev interferes in [government] personnel reshuffle. But I told him [Jeenbekov] immediately after his election that I would not interfere in the personal policy,” the ex-President said.

Jeenbekov is an old friend of Atambayev, and they have known each other for 23 years. “I am two years older than he, and I can openly speak with him as an older brother. Sometimes I have to say unpleasant words. I am glad that he listens to all this and draws the right conclusions,” Atambayev said.

“Over the past ten years I did my best so that there was no family clan rule in the country, and I do not want that that time to be spent in vain,” the SDPK leader said.

Defending Prime Minister Isakov

During the press conference Atambayev defended Prime Minister Sapar Isakov. Isakov is doing his job well, although he makes many mistakes, he said.

Commenting on the scandal around the accident at the Bishkek thermal power plant (TPP), Atambayev said that the tenders for the reconstruction of the TPP were carried out by the team of Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who was Prime Minister from April 2016 to May 2017. Isakov was appointed Prime Minister on August 28, 2017.

Prime Minister Isakov is not responsible for this past January accident at the Bishkek TPP, Atambayev believes.

The former director of Bishkek TPP, Nurlan Omurkul uulu, recently stated that during the TPP reconstruction, materials and equipment were purchased at inflated prices. Atambayev proposed to investigate this case and bring to justice those responsible.

Fighting corruption

Ex-President Atambayev commented on the speech of his successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov at the Security Council meeting on February 8, when the President sharply criticized the work of law enforcement and judicial bodies in the fight against corruption.

“Jeenbekov only said beautiful words about fighting corruption,” Atambayev said, but all high-profile corruption cases began to be investigated during Atambayev’s presidency.

The Security Council should be a think tank, Atambayev said, adding that when Deputy Prime Minister Temir Jumakadyrov was in charge of the Security Council, it worked well. This is how it should be now. (Jumakadyrov died in a road accident in October last year.)

“On Tuesday, the President’s Office wanted to push a completely different strategy [the draft of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Kyrgyz Republic until 2014] in the second reading, and there was no transition to a parliamentary system and to Taza Koom (Clean Society) program,” Atambayev said. In Kyrgyzstan, after a long discussion, the Taza Koom program was adopted, according to which all actions of officials should be transparent.

The SDPK leader warned the current President of repeating the mistakes of his predecessors, Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who established their family-clan dictate in the country.

Fighters against corruption should not have friends like “Raym the Millionaire”, Atambayev added. The ex-president was speaking about Raym Matraimov, who previously headed the Osh Customs and was dismissed by Prime Minister Isakov in November 2017.

House in presidential compound

Atambayev told journalists about his new house (dacha) in the territory of Ala-Archa State Residence near Bishkek, where he and incumbent President Jeenbekov currently reside.

“I have built this house with the help of my family and friends. No money was allocated from the state budget, although by law the state should have built it. This is my gift to the state,” Atambayev said.

According to official data, the state dacha No. 17 costs 89.3 million soms and no funds were allocated from the state budget.

Parliamentary elections

Early elections in the country are undesirable, although everything is possible in Kyrgyzstan, Atambayev said, answering the question about the possibility of early parliamentary elections.

He also answered questions if he could become a prime minister or parliament speaker.

“I am returning to politics not to occupy a post,” he said, adding that not only presidents of foreign countries persuaded him to participate in the presidential election [last October] but he also received thousands of letters with thousands of signatures with the requests to him to run for a second term.

“I do not want dark times and clan rule return. This is my task”. Another task is that other serious and reputable parties could enter the Parliament.

Experts comment

Many experts do not see any drastic changes after the SDPK congress, since Atambayev was its informal leader, and at the congress he officially consolidated his position. The party’s policy is unlikely to change.

Atambayev made it clear that he does not intend to put up with the disgrace that is happening around his successor, expert Dmitry Orlov believes.

According to opposition public activist Edil Baisalov, Atambayev has publicly broken off his relationship with President Jeenbekov, and now the acting head of state no longer has any obligations to Atambayev, and he will be able to fully and independently exercise his duties.