Foreign Policy Blogs

Kyrgyzstan crackdown: Bermet Akaeva sidelined

Ms. Akaeva, 2005Bermet Akaeva, the daughter of ousted Kyrgyzstani President Askar Akaev, recently continued her odd-yssey of reinstatement in Kyrgyzstan's political life.  On March 23 of this year, she filed to run as a candidate for national legislature from the northern Kemin district.  More than a month of legal challenges in Kyrgyzstani courts ensued.  On April 27, her candidature was declared invalid. 

Now her supporters have become the latest target of the post-demonstration purges in Bakiev's administration.  Akaeva was herself hospitalized after a 9-hour interrogation concerning her part in fomenting the demonstrations on her behalf.

Triple play was tipping point
Tulip RevolutionMs. Akaeva was previously elected to a parliamentary seat representing Bishkek's University district, in the same set of elections where her brother, Aidar, was elected representative of Kemin, a city approximately 11 miles from Bishkek.  That same day, Bermat's father was re-elected Kyrgyzstan's President. 

The general elections so obviously failed to meet “free and fair” standards, that they were overthrown on March, 24, 2005, by that popular revolt known as the Tulip Revolution.  Election fraud, and a sense that Akaev was grooming his children to succeed him in office, proved to be the political tipping point against Akaev.  Economic issues underlay the electoral and succession conflict.  Kyrgyz citizens had noted, with increasing sense of injury, that not only government, but the economy, was non-transparently controlled by Akaev family members and associates. 

Ousted President Akaev left for Russia with his wife, son, and daughter, where he was granted asylum by President Vladimir Putin.  At least publicly, he continues to defend his reign and his perhaps eventual return to Kyrgyzstan.  Yet of the four Akaevs, only Bermat has made any effort to return.

What was she thinking?
On April 14, 2005–a scant three weeks after the Tulip Revolution–Ms. Akaeva showed up to take her place in Parliament.  During and immediately after President Akaev's ouster, the new Kyrgyzstan government had compiled a list of businesses allegedly owned by her father, brother and her husband.  All were due to be investigated for improper practices.  Once she took an oath of office, she would have had parliamentary immunity; however, that was forestalled by stripping her of office on May 16, 2005. 

Since that time, she has lived primarily in Russia, although she does return to Kyrgyzstan on an intermittent basis.

Throughout the aftermath of the Tulip Revolution, Bermat Akaeva has insisted upon the complete and utter blamelessness of her father, brother, and husband in any corrupt dealings, wealth amalgamation, or other unsavory elements of the Akaev ascendancy.   

On April 21, 2005, shortly after returning to Kyrgyzstan, she granted RFE/RL an interview in which she stated that her father “owned no businesses”, and so therefore had not garnered any cash by that method.  Her husband, Kazakhstan native Adil Toigonbaev, did own extensive business interests, but was equally honest and aboveboard in his business dealings.  Mr. Toigonbaev was indicted on August 19, 2005 for alleged fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion. 

Aidar AkaevIn September of 2005, Aidar Akaev was stripped of parliamentary immunity and an indictment was prepared against him for alleged extortion and money laundering.  An extradition request was sent by the new Kyrgyz government to Russia, which was not granted.  In March of 2006, Aidar Akaev was officially removed from his parliamentary post, which due to criminal investigations and fear for his physical safety, he had never occupied.

Only Akaeva has attempted to return, and one has to admire her persistence.  In April 2006, Bermet Akaeva was detained and questioned by the National Security Services for over three hours during a visit to the state.  Eleven months later, she filed for office.

We are now at the point where this article started–with Ms. Akaeva accused of paying a voter 200 som (USD 5.00) for a vote, and fomenting dissent on her own behalf.  No article I have read says anything about investigating the anti-Akaeva demonstrators who jostled her at the court.  Apparently her interrogators are to be reprimanded for interrogating her after 10 pm at night.

Activities that push Ms. Akaeva into the hospital are more likely to win her proponents rather than enemies.  But most of all: nobody comes out of this affair looking intelligent or credible, whether by word, deed, or outcome.

Photos: BBC; ; Kommersant