Kyrgyzstan Rival Parliaments Vie for Power
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
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
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
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
"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
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.