Kyrgyzstan to build Bishkek-Osh highway
Karachi authorities restore order to Lyari
Mardan suicide blast kills provincial assemblyman
Youth festival in southern Kyrgyzstan strengthens unity
Kyrgyz parliament solving problems
Deputies, analysts and ordinary citizens assess its performance
By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan’s newly elected parliament has been operating for three months, and while its full impact hasn’t been felt yet, some positive notes are already evident.
“At present, parliament’s focus is still on the tragic events in Osh and Dzhalal-Abad and the corruption of officials from (ousted president Kurmanbek) Bakiyev’s team,” New Media Institute executive director Sergey Makarov said.
But, as a civil activist in constant contact with deputies, he can see “there are many people there who work earnestly, unwilling to flirt with public opinion.”
“Most important, it’s much easier to contact deputies,” he noted. “In the past, meeting with parliamentarians or negotiating with them was practically impossible.”
Members were elected October 10, but it took a month for a coalition to form. Its first session was November 10.
Rustam Koshmuratov, director of the independent radio station Almaz, said fewer media restrictions than during the Bakiyev administration is one of the most significant changes that has come with the new parliament.
“Today, they find it much easier to work, and deputies are more concerned with media problems,” he said. “Earlier this year, the Zhogorku Kenesh (parliament) speaker held a conference with media managers, where we were invited to speak out about problems. One can feel deputies are willing to co-operate with the Fourth Estate, rather than put pressure on it.”
Young parliament faced hurdles, made some progress
But Toktayim Umetaliyeva of the Kylym Shamy human rights association, criticised the new parliament for “failing to tackle the country’s top social and economic problems.”
Still, parliament has “not made any serious blunders” so far, April Movement leader Bakyt Baketayev said. Parliament has not reached its full potential, but the public should be patient, Zhogorku Kenesh Deputy Irina Karamushkina said. “
The parliamentary system is new in Kyrgyzstan,” she said. "Criticising it is unethical, at least in relation to those who work in parliament. I do agree that the people haven't seen enough results in three months.”
Karamushkina pointed to some positive elements, though.
“During the era of presidential rule, the majority party totally ignored what the opposition was saying,” she said. “When any speech in the Zhogorku Kenesh happened to sound too critical, the microphones would simply be switched off. Today, with the government and parliament fully controlling each other, everyone is free to speak out. We won’t allow anyone to plunder the nation ... the way they did under the two previous presidents.”
Parliament might find it difficult to win back the public trust undermined under the strong-president system, Karamushkina observed.
“We have many phone calls from ordinary people voicing their mistrust and even supporting President Roza Otunbayeva’s initiative to dissolve parliament,” she said.
New system has kinks to be worked out
Parliament’s efficiency is anything but excellent, Akylbek Zhaparov, head of the Zhogorku Kenesh Budget and Finance Committee, said.
“There are many newcomers who haven't gotten accustomed to parliamentary work and learned to select their priorities,” he said. “The focus should be on lawmaking and enactment of laws.”
But parliament should “attain a level of well-co-ordinated work in two to three months’ time,” Zhaparov said.
Karamushkina pointed to several meaningful parliamentary decisions in recent months, including pay raises for teachers, cultural workers and scientists and the formation of parliamentary commissions to tackle market, education and healthcare problems and to investigate the June riots.
“This parliament is laying the foundation for the future development of Kyrgyzstan as a parliamentary state,” she said. “Future parliaments will be able to build further social and economic improvements on that basis.”
Elementary schoolteacher Irina Georgiyeva hopes social sector workers’ salaries will increase.
“Schoolteachers in Kyrgyzstan were on strike for almost the entire winter,” she said. “I am glad parliament paid heed to our demands and agreed to increase (our) pay. ... I voted in the first place for peace and accord that were so lacking last year. Now the situation is quiet again, and I guess the deputies will ... get down to work, focusing on what the ordinary people need.”