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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kyrgyz Plan Rally for Bakiyev's Ouster

ReutersSoldiers carrying the Kyrgyz flag as they prepare to raise it in Bishkek's central square on Wednesday morning.
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz opposition leaders said they would hold a rally Thursday demanding President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's ouster, saying his promise to let the parliament form a new Cabinet was not sufficient.

The opposition wants Bakiyev to fire top officials accused of corruption and other abuses, opposition lawmaker Melis Eshimkhanov said Wednesday.

"As most of our demands have not been agreed upon, we still want Bakiyev to resign," he said, adding the opposition would hold Thursday's rally as planned.

The opposition has been urging Bakiyev to fulfill his election promises and conduct constitutional reforms to curtail presidential powers and give the parliament and the Cabinet broader authority.

Eshimkhanov said Bakiyev had promised opposition leaders during their talks Tuesday to immediately dissolve his Cabinet and allow the parliament to form a new one. But he said the president and the parliament should stay in place until 2010.

The president also promised to submit to the parliament constitutional reforms the opposition had demanded Thursday, opposition leaders said.

"If the new version of the constitution is adopted, the structure of the government, its accountability and functions will change dramatically," said Edil Baisalov, leader of the For Democracy and Civil Society group. "We are starting to move toward an ideal parliamentary republic now, without waiting for 2010."

Bakiyev's spokesman, Dosaly Esenaliyev, said the president would address the parliament Thursday and added that a set of constitutional reforms would be submitted soon.

Esenaliyev would not say whether Bakiyev would introduce changes to allow lawmakers to immediately form a new Cabinet with broader powers, saying only that "many issues have been resolved" in talks between Bakiyev and the opposition.

Eshimkhanov, meanwhile, accused the authorities of deploying elite troops from Bakiyev's support base in the south in preparation for the rally, and planning to stage "provocations" Thursday in the capital, Bishkek.

"It smells of a regional confrontation," Eshimkhanov said.

Regional divisions have played an important role in Kyrgyzstan's volatile politics. Bakiyev comes from southern Kyrgyzstan, while many of the opposition leaders come from the north.

The Kyrgyz capital saw large-scale riots in which crowds of looters rampaged through stores following the March 2005 ouster of longtime President Askar Akayev, who fled to Russia.

Bakiyev was appointed several months later, but his reign has been marred by high-profile slayings, prison riots and battles for control of lucrative businesses.

Impoverished Kyrgyzstan, hailed in the 1990s as an "islet of democracy" in Central Asia, has been roiled by the deterioration of public security, economic problems and political tensions.