Kyrgyzstan Government Ousted

Scott Parrish
Margarita Sevcik
March 24, 2005

Kyrgyzstan Government Ousted: Kyrgyzstan President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev

Kyrgyzstan President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, 2005-2010, Source: WikiMedia Commons

On Thursday, March 24, 2005, a massive anti-government protest broke out in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Thousands of protesters, many of them wearing pink and yellow headbands, the colors of the political opposition, took to the streets of Bishkek to denounce the results of the March 13 Kyrgyz parliamentary elections and demand the resignation of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, who had held office for over 14 years. The protesters proceeded to a central square and then stormed the main building housing the government, known as the White House. According to Reuters, the protesters were unable to enter the heavily guarded compound during their first attempt, but when they tried again, government security forces withdrew and let the protesters seize the building. After the fall of the government headquarters, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former prime minister and one of the key leaders of the political opposition to Akayev, issued a statement saying that the opposition would maintain order and vowing to hold new elections. (1)

During an appearance on national television, Bakiyev announced that Prime Minister Nikolay Tanayev and the entire government resigned, with the exception of the head of the National Security Service and the Minister of Defense. (2) There are conflicting reports regarding the resignation and whereabouts of President Akayev. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing another Kyrgyz opposition leader, Felix Kulov, reported that Akayev had signed his resignation. By contrast, Reuters reported that Kulov refuted the report that Akayev had resigned. (3) Akayev’s current location is also uncertain. Interfax reported that his plane, although initially headed to Russia, landed in Kazakhstan in the late afternoon of March 24. Kazakhstani officials, however, have denied these reports. (4)

The dramatic events in Bishkek followed protests which began in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad following the two rounds of Kyrgyz parliamentary elections on February 27 and March 13. The opposition condemned these elections as unfair, and labeled them a means for promoting the power of Akayev and his family. Both Akayev’s daughter and son won parliamentary seats during the elections, while the opposition was handicapped by numerous restrictions on its campaign activities and decisions which barred some of its most popular members from standing as candidates. Lending credence to the opposition’s complaints, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the elections and concluded that they were seriously flawed and did not meet basic democratic standards. (5)

Currently, there are three opposition leaders who are likely to become significant players in Kyrgyz politics following what is now being called the “tulip” or “people’s” revolution. They are Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Felix Kulov, leader of the Ar-Namys party, political prisoner and former security minister and Bishkek mayor, and Roza Otunbayeva, former foreign minister. Both Bakiyev and Otunbayeva are former allies of Akayev who broke with the former President and became harshly critical of him and his methods. Both leaders were on the ground in the Osh region in the south of the country, where the initial protests erupted. Kulov was released from jail by his supporters right after the protestors seized the While House.

Following the seizure of the government building and the apparent departure of Akayev from the country, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court held an emergency session and annulled the results of the 17 February and March 13 parliamentary elections, reinstating the previous parliament. That parliament met later on 24 March in an emergency session to appoint a new leadership. It named opposition deputy Ishenbai Kadyrbekov as Acting President, and Bakiyev as Acting Prime Minister. Kulov, fresh from his release from prison, was appointed to take charge of the security forces. His task may not be simple, as Reuters and Russian news agencies reported numerous incidents of looting in Bishkek during the night of 24-25 March. Gangs of youths were reportedly roaming the streets smashing their way into stores and setting fires. (6)

Later that night, however, the Kyrgyz Parliament appointed Kurmanbek Bakiyev acting president and prime-minister. Roza Otunbayeva was appointed as the acting minister of foreign affairs. Bakiyev promised to hold new presidential elections “within three months.” (7) Roza Otunbaeva confirmed that new elections are planned for June 2005, Russian online newspaper reported. (8)

Many commentators have been drawing parallels between Kyrgyzstan and the post-Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine, in which the “rose” and “orange” revolutions took place in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Many analysts point out, however, that the Kyrgyz protests appear more spontaneous and less organized than those in Georgia and Ukraine. (9) The reports of looting from Bishkek also suggest another difference, as the events in Georgia and Ukraine were relatively peaceful.

The implications of the change of government for Kyrgyz foreign policy remain unclear. At the moment, Kyrgyzstan is host to both Russian and US military bases. The US base is situated there to support the global war on terrorism, especially operations in nearby Afghanistan. In addition, Kyrgyzstan recently agreed with its four neighbors – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan–on the text of a draft treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia. The five states had also agreed to sign the treaty as soon as possible.

International reaction to events in Kyrgyzstan was mixed. The United States reacted generally positively, but expressed concern about possible violence and disorder following the collapse of the Akayev regime. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed optimism that despite the violence and looting taking place, the events of 24 March could begin a political process that would produce a stable and democratic government in Kyrgyzstan. She called for dialogue and restraint by all parties in Kyrgyzstan. (10) Russia, meanwhile, reacted more negatively, with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov criticizing the opposition for failing to bring stability to the situation in the country. Neighboring Kazakhstan expressed concern with the situation in Kyrgyzstan, saying the developments could negatively impact on the country’s social-economic development. Kazakhstan has also closed its border with Kyrgyzstan. (11)


(1) “Kyrgyz Opposition Says Ready to Take Control,” Reuters, March 24, 2005,
(2) “Lider oppositsii: pravitelstvo Kirgizii ukhodit v otstavku, no silovye ministry poka prodolzhayut rabotat,” Interfax, March 24, 2005,
(3) “Vypushchennyi iz turmy lider oppozitsii otpravil Akaeva v otstavku,”, March 24, 2005,
(4) “Zhurnalisty zhdut propavshegoAskara Akaeva v Moskve,”, March 24, 2005,
(5) “Report: Kyrgyzstan President Resigns,” Steve Gutterman, Associated Press, March 24, 2005,
(6) “Kyrgyzstan names new leadership,” BBC News, March 24, 2005,
(7) “New Kyrgyz leader promises polls,” BBC News, March 25, 2005,
(8) “Otunbayeva podtverdila, chto vybory prezidenta naznacheny na iyun,”, March 25, 2005,
(9) “Q&A: Kyrgyzstan protests,” BBC News, March 24, 2005,
(10) US Secretary of State Condoleezaa Rice, “Remarks With Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis After Meeting,”
(11) “MID PK vyrazhayet obespokoennost v svyazi s situatsiey v Kyrgyzstane,” Kazakhstan Today, March 24, 2005, in,

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