Kyrgyz opposition seizes power, dissolves Parliament

Kyrgyzstan’s opposition said on Thursday it had taken power and dissolved Parliament in the poor but strategically important Central Asian state after deadly protests forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee the capital, Bishkek.

As interim government leader, Roza Otunbayeva demanded the resignation of the president, whom she helped bring to power five years ago. She said Bakiyev was trying to rally supporters in his power base in southern Kyrgyzstan. “We have a caretaker government now in place, and I am the head of it,” Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister, told Reuters hours before addressing reporters in the Parliament building.

“It will remain in place for half a year, during which we will draft the constitution and create conditions for free and fair [presidential] elections.”

The uprising, which spread to Bishkek on Wednesday a day after starting in a provincial town, was sparked by discontent over corruption, nepotism and rising prices in a nation where a third of the 5,3-million population live below the poverty line.

The United States has a military air base supporting troops in Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz city of Manas and is a major donor to Kyrgyzstan, along with China and Russia, which also has military base in the former Soviet state.

Otunbayeva said the new government would preserve an agreement allowing the US base to operate.

“Its status quo will remain in place. We still have some questions on it. Give us time and we will listen to all the sides and solve everything,” she said.

Traditional power base
Bakiyev fled Bishkek to southern Kyrgyzstan, his traditional power base in a nation split by clan rivalries. A witness said he arrived late on Wednesday at the airport in Osh, and Otunbayeva said later he was in his home region of Jalalabad.

She said the entire country was under the control of the interim government, except for Osh and Jalalabad. Armed forces and border guards supported the new government, she said.

Spokespersons for the president were not available for comment.

In the centre of Osh, hundreds of Bakiyev’s supporters scuffled with opponents of his regime, a Reuters reporter said.

At least 68 people died in the capital, many of gunshot wounds. Protesters stormed the government building that Bakiyev left behind, smashing trucks through the perimeter fencing.

A Reuters reporter inside the building saw demonstrators walking over broken glass and smashed computers and sending papers cascading from windows. The seventh floor, where the president keeps his office, was badly charred.

“The whole country is on fire,” said Nurlan Aslybekov, an unemployed man who travelled to Bishkek from the town of Talas, where the first anti-government protests broke out on Tuesday.

In Washington, State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley said operations at the Manas base — visited by US Central Command chief General David Petraeus last month — appeared unaffected.

Bakiyev came to power in the 2005 “Tulip Revolution” protests, led jointly by Otunbayeva, which ousted Kyrgyzstan’s first post-Soviet president, Askar Akayev. She briefly served as acting foreign minister before falling out with Bakiyev. — Reuters

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