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Kyrgyz Lawmaker Arrested for Planning a Coup

The arrest of Kanatbek Isayev might serve as a way to discredit one of the election frontrunners.

2 October 2017

Less than two weeks before Kyrgyzstan’s presidential elections, the arrest of a prominent lawmaker might turn the tables against one of the main contenders, Omurbek Babanov, reports.


Kanatbek Isayev (pictured) was detained for questioning on 30 September on allegations of preparing mass riots and forcible seizure of power in the event that Babanov, whom Isayev supports, did not win the elections. The accusation came via a statement from the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), Kyrgyzstan’s security agency, cited by EurasiaNet. Around the same time as the statement, several recordings, allegedly of Isayev, were posted on YouTube, purportedly showing him paying off criminals to cause trouble; however, the recordings were not mentioned in the GKNB statement. 


Isayev had been planning to run for president himself, on behalf of the Kyrgyzstan Party, which nominated him in June, RFE/RL reports. However, he was not able to do so, after election officials rejected 10,000 of the 37,000 signatures he collected in support of his candidacy, which placed him under the required threshold of 35,000 signatures, thus rendering him ineligible to take part in the vote.


Among the candidates, Bananov and former Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party representative Sooronbai Jeenbekov are the ones with the greatest chance of winning the elections, EurasiaNet reports. Their election platforms are very similar, which could mean that the political battle might involve more unconventional tactics. 


“What we have here is more a competition in kompromat [dissemination of compromising material] than electoral programs. The candidates’ manifestos are weak – they have either been copied from elsewhere, or they don’t have one at all. And nobody reads these things anyway. That’s how we do things,” political analyst Marat Kazakpayev told EurasiaNet.


This Saturday, a thousand people rallied in Bishkek asking for free and fair elections, amid allegations of pressure on voters, RFE/RL also reported.



  • Early polls had placed Babanov, a wealthy businessman, in the lead ahead of other front-runners such as Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov, said to be President Almazbek Atambaev’s choice.


  • Kyrgyz law prohibits a president from serving two consecutive terms. There has been speculation that Atambaev would run for prime minister after a referendum approved his proposed constitutional changes to increase the power of the government.


  • In August, a court in Bishkek sentenced opposition party leader Omurbek Tekebaev and former Emergency Situations Minister Duishonkul Chotonov to eight years in prison for accepting bribes. It ordered their assets confiscated and barred them from holding public office for three years. Tekebaev called the court’s decision politically motivated with the aim of keeping him off the ballot in October’s presidential election.


  • Later in September, Kyrgyzstan accused Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev of attempting to interfere in its upcoming presidential election after he held a meeting with Babanov. 

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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