Kyrgyzstan’s ruling coalition collapses after president’s party quits

Kyrgyzstan’s ruling coalition collapses after president’s party quits
By bne IntelliNews October 24, 2016

The Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) has decided to withdraw from the four-party ruling coalition over disagreements with partners over constitutional reform plans, SDPK said on October 24.

The move means the coalition government of Prime Minister Sooronbai Zheenbekov will have to resign, six month after it came to power. Under the Kyrgyz legislation, the withdrawal of one coalition party automatically means the dissolution of the coalition and the resignation of the government that it formed.

SDPK, led by close allies of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, said the decision to quit the coalition came after partners refused to support constitutional reforms that some claim represent an attempt by the president to consolidate his power. 

SDPK leader Isa Omurkulov told news agency on October 24 that the decision to quit the ruling coalition was made at a meeting of the party earlier the same day citing “irreconcilable political views”. Though the collapse of the ruling coalition means the government automatically resigns, unnamed parliament sources told that Zheenbekov might stay as head of the government until the spring.

Before the collapse, the ruling coalition consisted of SDPK, which holds 38 seats in the 120-member parliament, Ata-Meken (11 seats), the Kyrgyzstan Party (18 seats) and Onuguu-Progress (13 seats). SPDK is locked in a dispute with Ata Meken over the constitutional referendum that is scheduled to be held on December 11. While SDPK, which was headed by Atambayev before his election as president, is backing the referendum, Ata Meken is opposing it, arguing that the change would give the prime minister too much power.

Atambayev now has three working days to ask one of the parliamentary parties to form a new majority coalition. Due to Atambayev’s affiliation with SDPK and the fact that the party controls the highest number of seats in the parliament, the president most certainly will ask SDPK to form the new ruling coalition.

Unnamed parliament sources told that the new ruling coalition will likely be formed by SDPK, Kyrgyzstan Party and Respublika - Ata Jurt (RAJ). Ata Meken and Onuguu-Progress parties will not be part of the ruling majority. RAJ holds 28 seats in the parliament, meaning the new ruling coalition will control 84 parliamentary seats, up from 80 seats under the previous coalition.

RAJ is interested in joining the majority coalition, the party's deputy head Ruslan Kazakbayev told Sputnik Kyrgyzstan. That will mean Ata-Meken and Onuguu-Progress will move into opposition together with Bir Bol party, which holds 12 seats.

A new coalition will likely allow SDPK - the party loyal to Atambayev - to carry on with its plans to hold a constitutional referendum. The referendum seeks to strengthen the powers of the prime minister against that of the presidency. Some critics say the move is aimed at getting Atambayev into the prime minister’s post when his term ends. Others believe that Atambayev hopes to install his own loyal prime minister, who will answer to him and his party once his term as president ends.

The Central Asian nation's constitution bars Atambayev from running for a second term when his mandate ends in 2017. 

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory body for legislative affairs, issued a preliminary report in August saying the proposed constitutional amendments would negatively impact the balance of powers by strengthening the powers of the executive, while weakening both the parliament and, to a greater extent, the judiciary. “Overall, some of the proposed amendments raise concerns with regard to key democratic principles, in particular the rule of law, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, and have the potential to encroach on certain human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the report read.

The mostly Muslim country with a population of 6mn has been volatile for over the past decade. Violent revolutions toppled two successive regimes in 2005 and 2010. That threatens the political stability of the country in the event that Atambayev attempts to stay in power.