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March 27, 2005
Dueling Parliaments In Bishkek Threatens Tulip Revolution

The Tulip Revolution continues to sputter along in the Kyrgyz capitol of Bishkek, where a conflict between the old parliament and the new one elected as a result of the rigged election has caused such confusion that the new security chief briefly threatened to arrest members of the old parliament that had freed him from prison:

TWO rival parliaments competed for power in Kyrgyzstan yesterday, fuelling more political uncertainty three days after the former Soviet countrys longtime leader fled and his government collapsed amid massive demonstrations. ...

Some fear the division - and the competing parliaments - could plunge the shaken central Asian country into deeper turmoil. Both parliaments - the new one elected in the disputed vote that sparked massive discontent and the one that lost the election - met in separate chambers over the weekend, each claiming to represent the people.

Felix Kulov, a former opposition leader who was freed from jail Thursday, warned lawmakers in the old parliament - led by his own allies - that they should step down.

"The new parliament is legitimate and the old parliaments term has expired," said Mr Kulov. He warned the former parliament that "if you get people out, I will take measures to arrest you".

Mr Kulov later apologised when Azim Beknazarov, the prosecutor-general, challenged him, saying: "These are the people who freed you, will you arrest them?"

Political reality has begun to dawn on the Kyrgyz, now that Akayev's regime has collapsed. One might have considered that since the fulcrum of that collapse was the discredited election, the simple solution would have been to declare their results void and re-run the election as soon as possible. However, that obviously won't satisfy the people elected in the last election, some or most of whom probably truly won without any rigging.

The result? Separate governments -- one parliament which chased Akayev out but whose terms, as Kulov noted, have expired, and the other elected under a shadow of fraud. Kulov now controls the security forces of Kyrgyzstan thanks to the old parliament but has suddenly and inexplicably insisted that they cede power to the new parliament. Undoubtedly Kulov doesn't want a return of Akayev, who imprisoned him before abdicating power himself. Failing that, however, it's pretty hard to figure out exactly what Kulov wants.

It looks like the Kyrgyz revolution fired itself off about six months too early, before the revolutionaries themselves had any idea what they wanted. Their movement has progressed aimlessly and clumsily, and the conflict between the two parliaments shows that little thought about its implications has been applied to the emergent situation. The problem won't be intractable, but unless the Kyrgyz people in power now act to fully define their goals and immediate steps to implement them, no one can feel confident that democracy will result from this putsch.

UPDATE: More on Kulov's position and rationale:

"I think that violating the constitution will hurt the image of our republic, because if we go outside the law, it will give us very big problems," Kulov said.

"First of all, it will give President Akayev an opportunity to try, through international organizations, to return again (to power)," he said. "Because he has not resigned from his office." ...

Speaking to AP, Kulov reiterated his support for the new parliament and said challenges of the official results should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.

"But why dissolve the new parliament?" he said, adding that doing so left the country in control of an acting prime minister and acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev while the old parliament's mandate was expired.

"Don't tell me that's democracy," he said.

His attentiveness to constitutional law sounds reasonable enough, and his concern for his own hide if he deviates from it appears genuine. I think Kulov will have one hell of a time dislodging the old parliament from their seats using that argument, given their victory over Akayev and the taint of the previous election.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 27, 2005 7:54 PM

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