Scenarios: What next for Kyrgyzstan and its president?

By Maria Golovnina

BISHKEK (BestGrowthStock) – Kyrgyzstan’s new rulers warned on Tuesday they would order a special operation to detain ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev unless he turns himself in by the end of the day.

The interim government wants Bakiyev to stand trial for the deaths of at least 82 people in an uprising in Bishkek on April 7, but it may also offer Bakiyev a way to leave the country.

What happens to Bakiyev will be crucial in determining the fate of the impoverished Central Asian state of 5.3 million people, where the United States operates an military air base that is key for fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Bakiyev’s next moves are crucial. Following are some scenarios for the outcome.

BAKIYEV IS ARRESTED AND PUT ON TRIAL

Bakiyev says he would not receive a fair trial from the interim government, headed by Roza Otunbayeva, and that the United Nations should establish an independent commission to look into the events of April 7.

Bakiyev has said he would bear full responsibility should he be convicted by an independent, international commission.

If tried by the structures under the interim government, Bakiyev would probably be held responsible for the deaths of protesters killed in Bishkek. Many involved in the protests have said they can never forgive him.

With Kyrgyzstan’s government in flux, it is unclear whether a guilty verdict would lead to imprisonment, exile or execution. Capital punishment was abolished under Bakiyev’s rule.

BAKIYEV GOES INTO EXILE, WILLINGLY OR NOT

If Bakiyev were to find safe passage from the country, the specter of further turmoil, or even civil war, would recede swiftly. Major powers such as the United States and Russia are likely to be pushing him to leave.

But where would he go? Russia, home to Askar Akayev, the post-Soviet leader of Kyrgyzstan whom Bakiyev himself ousted in 2005, has said Bakiyev is not welcome.

The United States has also said it has no plans to shelter Bakiyev or to help him leave Kyrgyzstan, and other Western powers may find it hard to stomach giving asylum to a leader whose troops fired into crowds of protesters.

Other Central Asian countries could be potential destinations.

BAKIYEV FIGHTS BACK OR IS KILLED

An attack on Bakiyev could swiftly spark more turmoil in a country split into north and south by clan and ethnic rivalries.

Otunbayeva does not support using force against Bakiyev, but says her government cannot guarantee the president’s safety from those who want revenge.

Bakiyev says he has support in the south and any attempt on his life would “drown Kyrgyzstan in blood.” He says he is guarded by a core of hardened loyalists who are ready to die.

It is not clear to what extent Bakiyev’s supporters would retaliate.

Violence could increase the risk of ethnic strife between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz, who clashed as the Soviet Union crumbled in Osh, killing at least 300 people and wounding thousands more.

Uzbeks in the Ferghana valley region, a cauldron of ethnic and tribal tension in the heart of Central Asia, demanded autonomy from the Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, provoking a deadly backlash. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ordered Interior Ministry troops into the region to stop the clashes.

Ethnic Kyrgyz make up 69.6 percent of the 5.3 million population of Kyrgyzstan. Uzbeks comprise 14.5 percent and Russians 8.4 percent.

The mix is more evenly matched in the south. Uzbeks comprise about 40 percent of the 1 million population of Jalalabad region and about 50 percent in the neighboring region of Osh.

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(Writing by Robin Paxton and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Scenarios: What next for Kyrgyzstan and its president?