Government and Politics
As independence has progressed, politics have grown increasingly
tangled in Kyrgyzstan. President Akayev, who took office amid
a chain of events that lent credence to an idealistic promise
of democratic reform and stability, has proven more able to formulate
goals than to carry them out. Although a constitution was ratified
in 1993, many terms of that document have not yet gone into force.
In March 1990, while still part of the Soviet Union, the republic
elected a 350-member Jogorku Kenesh (parliament), which remained
in power until it dissolved itself in September 1994. This body
was elected under the rules prescribed by the perestroika
(see Glossary) policy of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev,
which mandated that at least 80 percent of legislative seats be
contested even though communists likely would win most seats.
In the case of Kyrgyzstan, five seats went to the initial opposition
movement, the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (DDK).
Over time it has become apparent that President Akayev prefers
dealing with administrators subordinate to him rather than with
legislators. The initial harmony between Akayev and the parliament
began to sour in 1993. A number of specific points of contention
arose, most of them related to growing legislative resistance
to what was widely viewed to be government corruption and mismanagement.
Throughout 1993 the parliament sought aggressively to extend control
over the executive branch. The allotment of development concessions
for two of the republic's largest gold deposits was a particular
rallying point (see Natural Resources, this ch.). The chief representative
of Cameco, Boris Birshtein, was a Swiss citizen who had been named
in a number of financial scandals in Russia and elsewhere in the
CIS. When it was discovered that the Kyrgyzstani negotiating team
that had sealed the Cameco transaction had financial interests
in the deal, the agreement nearly was cancelled entirely. In December
1993, public protest about this gold concession brought down the
government of Prime Minister Tursunbek Chyngyshev and badly damaged
Akayev's popularity and credibility.
Chyngyshev was replaced by Apas Jumagulov, who had been prime
minister during the late Soviet period. Jumagulov was reappointed
in March 1995 and again in March 1996. Akayev was not publicly
accused of being involved in the gold scandals, but numerous rumors
have mentioned corruption and influence-peddling in the Akayev
family, especially in the entourage of his wife. As these rumors
circulated more widely, President Akayev held a public referendum
of approval for his presidency in January 1994. Most impartial
observers regarded the 96 percent approval that Akayev claimed
after the referendum as a political fiction.
Data as of March 1996