07 November 2006

Heating up

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan—The military dispersed anti-government demonstrators with pepper gas in front of the parliament building Tuesday afternoon after supporters of embattled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev clashed with the opposition movement in a bottle-throwing incident on the sixth straight day of unrest in this Central Asian nation.

The incident occurred on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which is still a national holiday in this former Soviet Republic, after the Movement for Reforms moved their protest from the national executive offices to the parliament. The Movement for Reforms has promised to demonstrate in the national capital until the government meets its demands, which include the resignation of the president and prime minister and constitutional reforms that would increase the power of the parliament.

The national police force and some elements of the military have reportedly thrown their support behind the opposition movement. A handful of military officers stood shoulder to shoulder with government opponents who reassembled at a rally at Ala-Too Square after being forced from the parliament by pro-government elements of the military.

The Kyrgyz Republic is among the poorest of the former Soviet Republics and political factions often pay poor and unemployed workers to demonstrate on their behalf. Murat (not his real name), a professional translator from Naryn Oblast, or province, said an unemployed friend of his was paid 200 Kyrgyz soms (about $5) to make a public statement today on behalf of Bakiyev. “When you have a job, you go for the truth. When you’re hungry you need food,” he explained. Murat said he might have accepted the same offer had he been unemployed. Moving from Naryn to Bishek allowed him to increase his monthly salary from $100 per month to more than $400 per month. The average monthly salary in Kyryzstan is $67; public school teachers are paid about $30 per month.

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