Structure of Government
Although the constitution calls for a government of three branches,
in practice the presidency has been the strongest government office.
As economic and social conditions deteriorated in the early 1990s,
President Akayev sought extraconstitutional authority in dealing
with a series of crises. Under these conditions, Akayev faced
occasional opposition from parliament, and pockets of local resistance
grew stronger in the southern provinces.
President and Council of Ministers
Akayev is able to act as he does because under the constitution
the president stands outside the three-branch system in the capacity
of guarantor of the constitutional functioning of all three branches.
The president names the prime minister and the Council of Ministers,
subject to legislative confirmation.
According to the constitution, the president is to be elected
once every five years, for no more than two terms, from among
citizens who are between thirty-five and sixty-five years of age,
who have lived at least fifteen years in the republic, and who
are fluent in the state language, which is Kyrgyz. There is no
vice president. Akayev defied predictions that he would seek referendum
approval of an extension of his term rather than stand for reelection
in 1996 as mandated in the constitution. (The presidents of Kazakstan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan had followed the former course in
1994 and 1995.) In the presidential election of December 1995,
Akayev gained 71.6 percent of the vote against two communist challengers.
Several other political figures protested that they had been prevented
illegally from participating. International observers found the
election free and fair. Earlier, newly elected deputies of the
1995 parliament had proposed that presidential elections be postponed
until at least the year 2000, with Akayev to remain president
in the interim. According to rumors, Akayev favored using a referendum
to extend his own term of office, but he found acceptance of parliament's
proposal unwise. Kyrgyzstan depends heavily on the loans of Western
banks and governments, who objected strenuously to the cancellation
of elections as a "step back from democracy."
The Council of Ministers nominally is entrusted with day-to-day
administration of the government. In general, however, the office
of the presidency has dominated policy making; in most cases,
Akayev's prerogative of appointing the prime minister and all
cabinet positions has not been effectively balanced by the nominal
veto power of parliament over such appointments. The new parliament
of 1995 showed considerably more independence by vetoing several
key Akayev administrative appointments. In February 1996, the
government resigned following the approval of Akayev's constitutional
amendments. The new government that Akayev appointed in March
1996 included fifteen ministries: agriculture, communications,
culture, defense, economy, education and science, finance, foreign
affairs, health, industry and trade, internal affairs, justice,
labor and social welfare, transportation, and water resources,
plus deputy prime ministers for agrarian policy, sociocultural
policy, and industrial policy and the chairmen of nine committees
and agencies. Many individuals retained their positions from the
preceding government; changes occurred mainly in agencies dealing
with social affairs and the economy.
In October 1994, Akayev took the legally questionable step of
holding a referendum to ask public approval for bypassing legal
requirements to amend the constitution. The referendum asked permission
to amend the constitution to establish a bicameral legislature
that would include an upper chamber, called the Legislative House,
which would have only thirty-five members. Those deputies would
receive government salaries and would sit in permanent session.
A lower chamber, the House of National Representatives, would
have seventy members and would convene more irregularly. Akayev's
plan also provided that deputies in this new parliament would
not be able to hold other government positions, a clause that
caused most of the republic's prominent politicians to drop out
of consideration for election to parliament.
In the elections to the new parliament that began in February
1995, only sixteen deputies managed to get clear mandates on the
first round of balloting. Second-round voting also proved indecisive.
When the parliament was convened for the first time, in March
1995, fifteen seats remained unfilled; two important provinces
(Naryn and Talas) had no deputies in the upper house at all, prompting
angry cries that regional interests were not being properly represented
when the two houses elected their respective speakers. A later
round of elections, which extended into May, was marked by widespread
accusations of fraud, ballot-stuffing, and government manipulation.
Such circumstances aroused strong doubts about the legislative
competency of the parliament. Only six of the deputies have previous
parliamentary experience, and a number of prominent political
figures, including Medetkan Sherymkulov, speaker of the 1990-94
parliament, failed to win what had been assumed were "safe" seats.
Even more serious were concerns about the incomplete mandate of
the new legislative system. The constitutional modifications voted
on by referendum did not specify what the duties and limitations
of the two houses would be. Thus, the early sessions of 1995 were
preoccupied by procedural wranglings over the respective rights
and responsibilities of the legislative, executive, and judicial
branches. Because little business of substance was conducted in
that session, several deputies threatened that this parliament,
like the previous one, might "self-dissolve." However, the body
remained intact as of mid-1996.
According to the constitution, judges are to be chosen by the
president, subject to parliamentary confirmation. Potential judges
must be Kyrgyzstani citizens between thirty-five and sixty-five
years of age who have legal training and at least ten years of
legal experience. The length of judges' tenure is unlimited, but
judges are subject to dismissal for cause by parliament. In the
mid-1990s, the judicial system remained incomplete both in the
filling of prescribed positions and in the establishment of judicial
procedures and precedents. A Supreme Court was appointed, but
its functioning was delayed in 1995 by parliament's refusal to
approve Akayev's nominee as chief justice. Although the parliament
of 1991-94 also mandated a national constitutional court (over
the objections of Akayev), that body never has been established.
In general, the rule of law is not well established in the republic.
The one area of the law that has flourished in Kyrgyzstan is libel
law, which public figures have used widely to control the republic's
press. By contrast, the observance of laws designed for the regulation
of the economy is not uniform or consistent, even by government
officials. The functioning of the State Arbitration Court, which
has responsibility for financial and jurisdictional disputes within
government agencies and between government agencies and private
enterprises, has been extremely irregular and lacking in oversight
by any other government institution.
The republic is divided into seven administrative regions: six
provinces and the capital city of Bishkek. The so-called northern
provinces are Naryn, Ysyk-Köl, Chu, and Talas, and the southern
provinces are Osh and Jalal-Abad. Jalal-Abad was formed out of
Osh Province in 1991, largely to disperse the political strength
of the south that had become centered in Osh. Each province has
a local legislature, but real power is wielded by the province
governor (until 1996 called the akim ), who is a presidential
appointee. In some cases, the akim became a powerful
spokesman for regional interests, running the district with considerable
autonomy. Particularly notable in this regard was Jumagul Saadanbekov,
the akim of Ysyk-Köl Province. The government reorganization
of early 1996 widened the governors' responsibilities for tax
collection, pensions, and a variety of other economic and social
Akayev has had difficulty establishing control over the two southern
provinces. Several southern politicians (the most important of
whom was Sheraly Sydykov, scion of an old Osh family that enjoyed
great prominence in the Soviet era) have taken the lead in national
opposition against Akayev. Sydykov headed the parliamentary corruption
commission in 1994, and he headed the influential banking and
ethics committees of the parliament elected in 1995.
When the akim of Osh resigned to run for the new parliament,
Akayev appointed as his replacement Janysh Rustambekov, an Akayev
protégé who had been state secretary. Rustambekov, the first northerner
to head this southern province and a highly controversial appointment,
was considered to be a direct surrogate of Akayev in improving
control over the south. Rustambekov, who has fired large numbers
of local administrators, is opposed chiefly by Osh Province Council
head Bekamat Osmonov, who is one of the most skilled and influential
politicians in the south. Osmonov, who also was a deputy in the
lower house of the new legislature, emerged as a powerful critic
of Akayev and a possible presidential rival if Akayev could not
prevent the next election.
Data as of March 1996