Atambayev may face trial in Bishkek TPP case

Atambayev may face trial in Bishkek TPP case

The Kyrgyz parliament has started to draft a law on depriving former presidents of immunity in case of committing grave crimes. This law can be applied to the last retired president of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev. The deputies demanded to bring him to justice in the Bishkek thermal power plant case, which also involves former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov and former mayor of Bishkek Kubanychbek Kulmatov. They were summoned twice for questioning to the State Committee for National Security.

The parliament of Kyrgyzstan finalized the discussion of the report of the deputy commission to investigate the causes of the accident at the Bishkek thermal power plant and the rational use of the $386 million loan received for its modernization. Kyrgyzstan signed a loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China and signed a contract to implement the modernization of the Bishkek TPP project with the Chinese company TBEA. Work at the station began in 2013. Heat outage in Bishkek in winter were common for 5 years. The citizens waited for the completion of the reconstruction of the station. However, modernization turned into a catastrophic accident, a scandal, and investigations. Last year, in the dead of winter, the Bishkek TPP broke down, leaving the citizens without heat and light for a week. Asked who is to blame, civil activist, expert Adil Turdukulov said that those officials who made decisions are responsible for this. These are the former president Almazbek Atambayev and ex-premier Sapar Isakov.

In the days of the accident Isakov said that the situation was the result of "an immense negligence of the TPP employees." A criminal case was opened and the guilty ones were found quickly - according to the decision of the head of government, the heads of the National Energy Holding, OJSC "Electric Stations" and  the Bishkek thermal power plant were dismissed. They decided not to make a big deal out of it.

A new scandal around the Bishkek TPP erupted after the change of power in the country. On October 15, 2017, presidential elections were held in Kyrgyzstan, which were won by Atambayev's successor, friend and colleague in the Social Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov. It was assumed that Atambayev will continue to influence the country's domestic and foreign policies through his protege and thus keep the levers of government in his hands. However, the former president had a disagreement with the president, which led to a change of government and numerous rearrangements in the law enforcement agencies. Zheenbekov distanced himself from Atambayev and now uses any opportunity to further weaken the position of the latter. According to experts, the Bishkek TPP was one of the "suitable reasons" for this.

"Today it's a matter of honor for the new president to prove that the government is really fighting corruption and gain even more support from the people. Moreover, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov had another serious reason to completely "free" himself from Atambayev and at the same time bring to justice the previous authorities, which remain powerful political figures," expert Adil Turdukulov told Vestnik Kavkaza. He fully admits that Atambayev may become subject of a criminal procedure in not just the Bishkek TPP case. "Sapar Isakov has been summoned to the National Security Committee. He testified twice. But the goal is not Isakov, but Atambayev. These calls appear to be the "early sign" in the mechanism that will bring Atambayev to justice for other cases concerning customs, smuggling and corruption in general. For example, it is established that about half a billion dollars were received annually by the Manas Transit Center, and only about $30 million was transferred to the budget from there. There is a noticeable shortage of funds in the energy sector, construction and road repair," Turdukulov said. According to him Jeenbekov will be able to systematically withdraw his recent patron, who became a rival, from the political game.

Kyrgyz politician Ravshan Jeenbekov said, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, that in the short term the confrontation between Atambayev and Jeenbekov will lead to weakening of the ex-president's position - it may come to the deprivation of presidential immunity and the initiation of criminal proceedings. But in the future, according to him, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, whose name is associated with the split of the elite, may also face problems.

"There was a split of the political elite in the country, serious forces were deprived of power. Atambayev went from being the new president's friend became one of his main enemies. And if Jeenbekov does not initiate reforms in the country in the near future and consolidate the leaders around him, then he is in trouble," the politician believes. According to Jeenbekov, the new president is being bailed out by the "negative background of the old president" - corruption, the TPP problems, squandered Chinese loans, personnel policy. But the current agenda of Jeenbekov will not last long. Approximately in half a year the society will strengthen requirements of social and economic character and if there is nothing to show, different variants of development of events will be possible.

Professor at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) John Heathershaw believes that the events in Kyrgyzstan fall under the political concept of "consolidation of the new government." "It will become clear later whether it will be an authoritarian regime, or half-authoritarian. The situation will depend on how Atambayev's colleagues will be prosecuted. It is obvious that is a struggle for power between Jeenbekov and Atambayev. I think that it is quite characteristic phenomenon for the countries with an unformed democracy, where the process of transferring power from one president to another is underway," Heathershaw said on the air of Azattyq (Liberty) radio.

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