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Kyrgyzstan seeks to rebuild government after coalition falls

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Aug. 24, 2012, 4:50 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters

President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev
© AFP

Reuters

BISHKEK - Kyrgyzstan will attempt to form a new government within the next 15 days after its ruling coalition collapsed this week under the strain of a deepening economic crisis and corruption allegations against the prime minister.

President Almazbek Atambayev will try to unite the squabbling politicians after dissolving the government on Friday, two days after the withdrawal of two parties cost the coalition its majority in parliament.

Analysts said the next prime minister could be drawn from outside the main groups vying for influence in Central Asia's only parliamentary democracy, a new model of government backed by the United States but viewed with suspicion by former imperial master Russia.

Both countries have military air bases in the country, which lies along a major drug trafficking route from Afghanistan and has suffered periodic bouts of ethnic violence.

"We need a new elite capable of coping with this force majeure; an elite that can end this stalemate," political analyst Mars Sariyev said.

The collapse of the government risks a prolonged period of political turmoil in former Soviet Kyrgyzstan. Deputies have warned the country risks defaulting on its foreign debt which, at $2.8 billion, is more than half of gross domestic product.

The economy in Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim country of 5.5 million, relies heavily on production from the Kumtor gold mine, the flagship asset of Canadian miner Centerra Gold, and remittances from hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

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Falling output at Kumtor contributed to a 5 percentage-point contraction in GDP in the first seven months of this year.

Two of the four parties withdrew in protest at the shrinking economy and alleged corruption, leaving Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov's Respublika party and the Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan without the majority to form a government.

Deputies from the departing Ata-Meken and Ar-Namys factions also called on Babanov to resign. Babanov's spokesman has denied all allegations of impropriety.

By law, Atambayev has three days to appoint a party to form a new coalition, which in turn has 15 days to complete its task. Babanov and his cabinet will continue in an acting capacity pending the formation of a new government.

Analysts identified Deputy Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev, Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, head of the presidential administration, and Elmir Ibraimov, head of the state agency for development and investment, as possible candidates for the premiership.

"These are people who are inside politics, but outside the main political groups," Sariyev said.

The only party outside the previous coalition, Ata Zhurt, enjoys strong support among Kyrgyz nationalists, particularly in the poorer, more agrarian south. It won more seats than any other party in the last parliamentary election in October 2010.

But political analyst Kadyr Malikov said none of Babanov's rival parties had presented a candidate suitable to replace him.

"These parties are without a heavyweight candidate for prime minister and they don't want to risk setting someone up to be a whipping boy," he said.

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