Kyrgyzstan to swiftly fill government void

By bne IntelliNews September 4, 2012

Clare Nuttall in Astana -

Three of Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary parties signed an agreement to form a new coalition government on September 3. The Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), Ar-Namys and Ata-Meken will make up the new coalition, and are expected to appoint presidential aide Zhantoro Satybaldiyev as prime minister.

The parliament is set to vote on the new government, and Satybaldiyev's candidacy for prime minister, within the next few days. The coalition will have a slim majority, as it comprises 67 of the 120 parliament members.

Compared to the previous two administrations, both of which took several months of negotiations to form, the new coalition has been agreed extremely quickly - just 10 days since President Almazbek Atambaev officially dissolved the former government and Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov.

The swift agreement is a promising sign that it will not be long before a new government is in place, and the focus can then turn from political crisis back to the economy and Kyrgyzstan's future development. Although Respublika is now out of government, the three parties forming the new coalition were also members of the previous government, so there is a good chance of at least some continuity in Bishkek.

Perhaps the most urgent issue facing the incoming government is the deteriorating economy. While Babanov became the scapegoat for the country's economic woes, the main reason for the poor performance is in fact outside the government's control. Technical issues at the Kumtor gold mine have quashed production at a project that accounts for around 12% of GDP. On top of that, a poor harvest within Kyrgyzstan, and rising international food prices, threaten to drag further on the economy in the second half of the year.

Looking at the bigger picture, tension continues to rise over the management of Kyrgyzstan's mining assets, illustrated by the success of demonstrators in disrupting recent mining licence auctions live on TV. All of these factors will make it more difficult for the new government to create a stable business environment and attract much needed investment to the country.

On the one hand, the switch from a presidential to a parliamentary system under the 2010 constitution was intended to end the abuse of presidential power - a driving factor for the country's two revolutions, which toppled first President Askar Akayev in 2005, followed by Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010. On the downside however, the new system has been criticised for creating weak and unstable government, with at least three of the five parties represented in the parliament currently required to form a coalition. The two previous coalitions were both marred by in-fighting, and the last one broke up after less than eight months, when first Ar-Namys and then Ata-Meken quit.

Although it has twice joined coalition governments alongside the SDPK, Babanov's Respublika party has refused to serve in a government with Ata-Meken. Instead, it announced it will form a united opposition with the nationalist Ata-Zhurt party - the first time a cohesive opposition bloc has been formed under the new constitution.

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