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Confusion in Bishkek as President’s Rival Cancels Homecoming

Omurbek Babanov earlier said he would address supporters in mass rally despite the charges against him.

16 April 2019

Omurbek Babanov (pictured), the Kyrgyzstani businessman/politician who left the country after losing the 2017 presidential election, abruptly scotched his planned return home over the weekend.

 

Babanov said concerns that “third forces” could exploit his return to Bishkek to stir up unrest prompted the decision not to fly in to the city from Moscow on 13 April, RFE/RL reports.

 

After the October 2017 election won by Sooronbai Jeenbekov, the authorities accused Babanov, a former prime minister, of inciting ethnic hatred during the campaign.

 

In 2018 he was hit with a second charge of plotting to seize power, Eurasianet.org reported.

 

The cancellation was as unexpected as last week’s announcement that Babanov planned to return.

 

Writing before he called off the trip, Eurasianet.org said there was a possibility he would be detained immediately after touching down.

 

Rallies in Bishkek and other cities announced by his political party, Respublika, to coincide with his visit on 13 April apparently did not take place.

 

Babanov is still under investigation on both charges, Prosecutor General Otkurbek Dzhamshitov told journalists, 24.kg reports today.

 

Three days before canceling his flight, Babanov told the TV station NTS he was returning voluntarily, saying, “Why would they arrest me? … I’m not running away from anything. I have nothing to hide,” according to RFE.

 

 

 

  • During the 2017 campaign then-President Almazbek Atambaev accused Kazakhstan’s leader Nursultan Nazarbaev of meddling in the election by supporting Babanov.

 

  • Atambaev endorsed Jeenbekov as his successor but has since turned against him. A law adopted by a big majority in parliament this month could enable the authorities to put pressure on Atambaev. The law makes it easier to prosecute former presidents for crimes committed while in office, AFP writes.

 

  • Atambaev plans to lead his Social Democratic party in parliamentary elections set for 2020.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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