- - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BISHKEK, KyrgyzstanKyrgyzstan’s coalition government disintegrated Wednesday, creating fresh uncertainty for an impoverished Central Asian country rife with corruption and a recent history of two revolutions.

Coalition Chairman Kanatbek Isayev said the Cabinet, including Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, would carry on its duties in a caretaker government until elections can be held.

Trouble had been brewing in the coalition for weeks, as the Ata-Meken party, a junior partner, accused Mr. Babanov of accepting a $1.5 million racehorse from a Turkish company in exchange for a building contract.

Ata-Meken threatened Mr. Babnov with a no-confidence vote, despite his insistence that he had bought the animal himself for $20,000.

“This is symbolic of the fact that Kyrgyzstan’s political system is so fragile that you can challenge it with a simple horse,” said Asel Doolotkeldieva, a researcher specializing in Kyrgyz politics based in Bishkek. “But it’s not only the horse, of course. It’s the culmination of other, much more serious allegations of corruption against the prime minister.”

Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a U.S. air base used for operations in nearby Afghanistan, has been beset by political instability since a popular uprising in 2010 led to the overthrow of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the introduction of a new constitution that handed more powers to parliament.

Explaining his party’s decision to leave the coalition, Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev cited poor economic growth over the past year.

There has been a stream of such accusations against the prime minister since he took office in December, but analysts say that moves to unseat him say more about political rivalries that any party’s defense of democracy.

Kyrgyzstan is “easily, by a long stretch, the most politicized society in Central Asia,” said John Heathershaw, senior lecturer in international relations at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. “And [while] that’s a positive thing, at the moment, it doesn’t look positive because there is so much instability.”

Ata-Meken has long opposed Mr. Babanov’s attempts for political reform, and his support from other coalition partners has depended on loyalties bought by appointing their members to key posts.

The turmoil has left locals once again feeling that their politicians have let them down.

Babanov is [said] to be corrupt,” said Erkin Kushbakov, 33, from the southern city of Osh “But who isn’t? All of them are deeply involved in corruption. This may lead to change of the government, of all ministers. But will the new ones make changes? People are getting quite tired of empty promises.”

“Our politicians are very busy criticizing each other, dividing the high positions,” Mr. Kushbakov added. “But can they assure people that this winter we will not have blackouts like the year before?”

Many observers had expected a no-confidence vote to take place when the parliament returned from the summer recess in September.

But Ata-Meken joined with the Ar-Namys party Wednesday in abandoning the coalition and calling for Mr. Babanov to step down and for fresh elections.

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