Kyrgyzstan: Former President Atambayev says he is sorry for bringing his successor to power

Almazbek Atambayev (photo: Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan website)

BISHKEK (TCA) — Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has issued a “public apology” for bringing incumbent President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to power and vowed “to try to rectify my mistake.” Atambayev’s March 17 statement in Bishkek comes amid persistent tensions between him and Jeenbekov — two politicians who used to be close allies, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

Speaking at a public gathering devoted to the 17th anniversary of deadly antigovernment protests in the southern village of Aksy, Atambayev accused Jeenbekov of creating an autocratic governing style based on family ties in the Central Asian country.

“I apologize that while all my life fighting against autocratic regimes, I failed to see the true inner self of that person (Jeenbekov), and seeing only his mask, I brought him and his family to power,” Atambayev said, adding that Jeenbekov’s policies split the nation.

He also issued a veiled threat, warning Jeenbekov that “if one day people wake up, nobody can stop them.”

Meanwhile, Jeenbekov on March 17 visited Aksy district to commemorate the victims of the deadly rallies and said he will “never allow the creation of autocratic clans in Kyrgyzstan.”

Atambayev, who was limited to a single six-year presidential term by the constitution, helped steer Jeenbekov, who had been his prime minister, into the presidency in an October 2017 election.

But the two have exchanged public accusations of incompetence and lack of professionalism in recent months.

Several of Atambayev’s close allies were arrested on corruption charges just months after Jeenbekov’s inauguration.

Some Kyrgyz politicians have said that Atambayev, who enjoys immunity as an ex-president, must also face justice for alleged corruption while in office.

In October, Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court ruled that the immunity enjoyed by the country’s former presidents is unconstitutional.

In December, the Kyrgyz parliament approved in the first reading a bill that would eliminate immunity for ex-presidents, potentially opening the path for Atambayev’s prosecution.

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Times of Central Asia