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Kyrgyzstan Rival Parliaments Vie for Power

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050327/ap_on_re_eu/kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan Rival Parliaments Vie for Power 23 minutes ago By KADYR TOKTOGULOV,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 27, 2005
      http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050327/ap_on_re_eu/kyrgyzstan

      Kyrgyzstan Rival Parliaments Vie for Power

      23 minutes ago

      By KADYR TOKTOGULOV, Associated Press Writer

      BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - Two rival parliaments competed
      for power Sunday in Kyrgyzstan, raising political
      uncertainty in the former Soviet nation days after its
      leader fled for Russia and his government collapsed
      amid massive demonstrations.

      Police and civilian volunteers appeared to have
      stemmed the looting that raged through Bishkek after
      demonstrators stormed the presidential headquarters on
      Thursday and sent President Askar Akayev fleeing to
      Russia.

      But disorder persisted in the political sphere, and
      the country's law-enforcement coordinator, appointed
      by one parliament, demanded the other body be
      recognized as legitimate in an apparent split in the
      opposition.

      Some fear the split � and the competing parliaments �
      could fuel simmering tension and plunge the shaken
      Central Asian country into deeper turmoil.

      Both groups � the parliament newly elected in a
      disputed vote that sparked massive discontent, and the
      one that lost the election � met in separate chambers
      over the weekend, each claiming to represent the
      people.

      Felix Kulov, a former opposition leader who was freed
      from jail Thursday, warned lawmakers in the old
      parliament � led by his own allies � that they should
      step down.

      "The new parliament is legitimate and the old
      parliament's term has expired," said Kulov, who has
      been placed in charge of law enforcement agencies. He
      warned the former parliament that "if you get people
      out, I will take measures to arrest you."

      Kulov later apologized when Prosecutor-General Azim
      Beknazarov challenged him, saying: "These are the
      people who freed you, will you arrest them?"

      "I am too tired. I apologize for that," Kulov said.

      The disputed elections led to the upswell of protests
      in this ex-Soviet republic, which culminated in
      Thursday's storming of the presidential and government
      headquarters. Akayev fled the country and took refuge
      in Russia, while the former parliament reclaimed its
      expired mandate and quickly named a new interim leader
      � former opposition party leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

      The split among the new leadership may reflect the
      deep divisions between north and south Kyrgyzstan.
      Kulov is from the north, whereas most of the
      opposition leaders are from the south.

      Beknazarov, the prosecutor general who is closely
      allied with Bakiyev, conceded that the new parliament
      � dominated by Akayev's allies � would now have to be
      officially recognized. But he cautioned that decisions
      taken by the former parliament were still valid,
      apparently ruling out any challenge to Bakiyev.

      The acting leader has yet to comment on the dispute.

      The Organization for Security and Cooperation (news -
      web sites) in Europe has offered to help resolve the
      dispute between the two parliaments. The organization,
      Europe's leading security body, had sent international
      observers to monitor the disputed elections, and its
      criticism of the vote helped fuel the
      then-opposition's complaints.

      On the streets of the capital, the mass disorder that
      followed Akayev's ouster appeared to have subsided,
      with police and volunteers wearing red armbands
      claiming success after a relatively quiet night in
      their fight against the looting that left Bishkek's
      main street a line of boarded up and shuttered stores.

      On Sunday, a duty officer at the Interior Ministry's
      press office said there were still reports of thefts,
      but "none of the mass disorder." The officer declined
      to give his name.

      In one Bishkek region alone, five cars were stolen, an
      unprecedented number, police said. Interior Ministry
      officers suspect the cars were stolen by looters eager
      to take their booty home.



      The previous night, police arrested 129 people in
      overnight confrontations, and reports varied between
      one and three people described as "pillagers" killed.

      Meanwhile, there was no sign that Akayev had resigned
      and on Sunday, about 700 of his supporters met in his
      hometown of Kemin, about 50 miles east of Bishkek, and
      said they don't recognize Bakiyev as leader. After the
      meeting broke up, about 150 blocked the main road to
      the capital in protest before dispersing peacefully.

      Akayev's departure made Kyrgyzstan the third former
      Soviet republic in the past 18 months � after Georgia
      and Ukraine � to see long-entrenched governments
      widely accused of corruption fall amid mass protests.

      The 60-year-old Akayev 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 he
      was accused of increasingly cracking down on dissent
      in recent years.
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