Kyrgyzstan. According to Countryaah website, national day of Kyrgyzstan is every August 31. Opposition leader Feliks Kulov was sentenced in January by a military court to seven years in prison, accused of falsification and abuse of power during a previous term as minister. In a new trial in May, he was indicted for embezzlement and sentenced to another 10 years in prison. The punishment would be served in parallel and thereafter Kulov would not be allowed to hold any government office for three years. Kulov denied all charges.
When one of the opposition MPs was arrested by the authorities, protests and hunger strikes erupted. A hunger-striking human rights activist died in February, leading to growing demonstrations and demands for President Askar Akajev’s departure. When Parliament approved a deal signed by Akajev on land disputes to China, the protests became violent. Five people were killed when police opened fire on protesters in southern Kyrgyzstan in March. A few months later, the government was forced to step down.
But turmoil continued and new Prime Minister Nikolaj Tanaiev warned of civil war. Amnesty was issued to the police who shot the protesters, which aroused the opposition’s anger and renewed the demands of the president’s resignation and Kulov’s release. One of Akajev’s employees suffered a grenade attack in September. Large security rallies met the continued protests during the fall and many protesters were arrested. At the same time, violent ethnic contradictions existed in southern Kyrgyzstan among Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek.
Support for the banned Muslim non-violent movement Hezb ut-Tahrir seemed to increase during the year. Hezb ut-Tahrir wants to establish a Muslim caliphate across Central Asia.
Atambayev’s presidential term
Almazbek Atambayev took over as President of Kyrgyzstan on December 11, 2011.
Temir Sarijev was Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister from April 30, 2015. Sarijev filed his resignation on April 11, 2016, following a controversy surrounding state funds used for road repairs. On April 13, 2016, Sooronbaj Zjejenbekov took over as prime minister.
Disagreement over referendum on constitutional amendments held in Kyrgyzstan on December 11, 2016 led to strained public relations between Atambayev and several former members of the Interim Government. In 2017, the Atambayev government cracked down on independent media through the justice system. Security services GKNB arrested key opposition politicians ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
On August 21, 2017, Zjejenbekov declared the Prime Minister’s post in connection with his announced candidacy for the Kyrgyzstan presidential election.
The 2017 presidential election
During the Kyrgyzstan presidential election on October 15, 2017, former Prime Minister Sooronbaj Zjejenbekov received 54.22 percent of the vote. Challenger Omurbek Babanov received 33.49 percent. Like Prime Minister Sapar Iskaov, Sooronbaj Zjejenbekov is a relatively unknown political figure in Kyrgyzstan. Both had President Almazbek Atambayev’s support. Challengers such as Omurbek Babanov, Adakhan Madumarov and Temir Sarijev have argued that the use of administrative resources, the purchase of votes and the sword campaigns played an important role in the election. OSCE observers partially confirmed this impression during a press conference on October 16 in Bishkek.
Southern Kyrgyzstan is still characterized by political instability. The situation at the border with Uzbekistan has improved following increased communication between Kyrgyz and Uzbek authorities. At the same time, relations with neighboring Kazakhstan in the north deteriorated during 2017. This has led to problems for Kyrgyzstan travelers, who depend on open borders.
Despite significant economic difficulties, Kyrgyzstan has emerged as a leader in democratic reform in Central Asia, a region characterized by authoritarian regimes.
Several international human rights organizations have expressed concern over renewed pressure on freedom of expression after President Atambayev initiated criminal proceedings against three news agencies in 2016–2017. Sooronbaj Zjejenbekov has won significant money claims in the legal system against Kyrgyz news agencies and journalists.
Prime Minister Sapar Isakov resigned following a motion of no confidence in Parliament on April 19, 2018 and was taken into custody by the Security Police during the corruption charges in June 2018. Mukhammedkalyj Abylgazijev took office as new Prime Minister on April 20, 2018.