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Who is Acting President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Zhaparov? Here’s the Explanation

Back in early October, ex-deputy Sadyr Zhaparov was in detention, and two weeks later he took over the reins of the country.

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Back in early October, Sadyr Zhaparov who was serving his 10-year-term in prison for organisation of mass disorders could not imagine how his fate would reverse in the following weeks.

After his release on the night of October 5 to 6 by his followers, Zhaparov was appointed by a group of parliamentarians to the post of prime minister. On October 14, his former appointment was confirmed by the legitimate session of the parliament and by presidential decree. On the following day, after the immediate resignation of President Zheenbekov and the parliamentary speaker’s refusal to act as president, Sadyr Zhaparov became the actual head of the state.

Although he is just the acting president of the Kyrgyz Republic formally, on October 16 he made a programme statement to the deputies and the people. He shared his vision of the country’s development: he promised to fight corruption, reduce the state apparatus, renew and rejuvenate the staff,  digitisation, and many other things.

After the candidature of Zhaparov was approved for high office, Kyrgyzstan saw stabilisation of public and political situation. In the last two weeks, the country has been in political crisis caused by the events of October 5-6. The mass protest against the results of parliamentary election held on October 4 turned into mass disorders and seizure of the White House in the evening of October 5. It was a place for the parliament and the presidential administration. Some politicians were freed from prisons; a series of self-appointments of executives of various agencies took place across the country. The president, government and parliament lost control of the situation for a few days; protests continued in Bishkek. Key political forces after negotiations that took almost a week reached a consensus and agreed to form a new government led by Sadyr Zhaparov.

The next key problem for the country is a determination of the date of parliamentary and presidential elections. According to the law, acting president may not take part in the forthcoming presidential election. Sadyr Zhaparov left the question of his participation in the presidential race open. Now let’s find out who is the acting president.

Who is Sadyr Zhaparov?

He is a politician, whose star is rising right now. Until the events of October 5-6, the public did not take him as a political figure at the republican level. After he came to the parliament at the end of 2010, he was often shown on television and in the press in context of Kumtor gold mining issue (a Canadian Centerra Gold produces, mines and processes gold since the end of the 90s).

In autumn of 2012, he was detained together with his Ata Zhurt party fellows Kamchybek Tashiev and Talant Mamytov for disorders after the protest in the centre of Bishkek. The organisers and participants of the protest called for the nationalisation of Kumtor, and then the protesters led by Tashiev attempted to seize the White House and climbed over the fence. Law enforcement agencies right there stopped them.

As a result,  Tashiev and Zhaparov as key organisers of the protest were sentenced to 1.5 years, and Mamytov was sentenced to one year. As these three people had been in the pre-trial detention facility for 8 months by the time of the verdict, they were freed as a result of partial aggregation of punishments and were stripped of their deputy mandates.

In October 2013, Zhaparov again came into view of law enforcement agencies in connection with the protests of residents of some villages of Issyk Kul region regarding the nationalisation of Kumtor. Then the rallies turned into riots – Kumtor that mined and processed the ore locally was left without electricity, the republican highway was blocked. The protesters then  moved to the nearby regional centre – the town of Karakol, where they took several people hostage, including the plenipotentiary representative of the government in this region (the governor) Emil Kaptagaev, who went out to calm the crowd.

The authorities claimed that Sadyr Zhaparov was the main organiser and leader who was giving orders. He has always denied this, and considers the charges brought against him as political persecution because of his principled position on Kumtor.

Law enforcement agencies initiated several criminal cases: “Threats of homicide”, “Hostage taking”, “Hooliganism” and “Use of violence against a representative of the authorities” on the fact of the incident. In addition to the direct participants of the event, Sadyr Zhaparov was named as one of the main suspects. But he managed to leave the country, and for almost four years was in Cyprus and Poland, and in spring of 2017 he voluntarily returned to the country and was immediately arrested.

On August 2, 2017, the politician was sentenced to 11.6 years in prison. He was found not guilty on three of the four articles mentioned above, and was found guilty only of taking a hostage. In April 2019, the Supreme Court partially satisfied the petition of Zhaparov’s lawyer and cut the term of imprisonment by one and a half years in connection with the new codes that imply the humanisation of criminal legislation becoming effective.

On October 19, Sadyr Zhaparov and his associates Kamchybek Tashiev and Talant Mamytov were fully acquitted by the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic “for absence of a crime in the act”.

What was he doing before?

Until 2005, he did not do anything specifically. After serving in the army in 1989, he returned to his village of Ken-Suu in the east of Issyk Kul region and was a worker at Santash collective farm, and an inspector of a special troop of the Internal Affairs Directorate of Issyk Kul region for a very short period (less than a year) , and then was deputy chair of Soltonkul farm, director of Guzel-MHAAD LLC. Before starting his political career, he headed Nurneftegaz LLC.

In 2005, Sadyr Zhaparov began to appear in the press as he became a member of parliament – Zhogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic on behalf of his district in the east of Issyk Kul. But he did not work there for long as in autumn of 2007 the third convocation of the parliament stopped its work due to dissolution. For some reason, he did not run for the fourth convocation, which was elected at the end of the same year, and for three years he was an unremarkable official under the then President Kurmanbek Bakiev. In 2007-2008, he was a pro bono adviser to the president, in 2008-2009 – the Commissioner of the National Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic for the Prevention of Corruption. From 2009 to the April 2010 events, when the Bakiev regime was overthrown, he worked as director of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption at the State Personnel Service of the Kyrgyz Republic.

However, those years neither journalists nor the public recall him as a principled fighter against corruption or as a defender of the country’s interests on the Kumtor issue.

In autumn 2010, as a member of Ata Zhurt party, he returned to the parliament. Deputy Zhaparov immediately headed the Committee on Judicial and Legal Issues, and later was appointed the leader of Ata Zhurt party instead of Kamchybek Tashiev.

What’s the secret of his success?

In aggregate, he did not have many supporters. They are mainly a certain part of the residents of his native Issyk Kul region. At the recent protests, people claiming they were from Naryn, Chui and other regions of the country also spoke in his support. 

His indignation about the violation of environmental standards by Kumtor Gold Company and about the fact that Kyrgyzstan does not have any benefit from the development of its gold mine by a foreign company is widely understood and supported by the people. However, the solution to the problem he offered – nationalisation – was illegal and put Kyrgyzstan’s reputation among investors at risk. In addition, if nationalisation took place, the government of the Kyrgyz Republic would be obliged to compensate for all the losses (both investments and lost profits) of the Canadian corporation Centerra Gold, which would put the country to a major financial crisis.

In his speech on October 10, 2020 at the state residence Ala-Archa, Sadyr Zhaparov, already appointed by a group of deputies as an acting Prime Minister, said “there are currently no plans to return Kumtor.”

“I say my position straight, there are no gold reserves left. There is no gold in the central mine, the previous Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev spoke about this,” Zhaparov answered the deputy’s question (cited and translated from Kaktus.media).

Turning back to the topic of his popularity. Another secret of his “success”, as recent events show, is the organised nature of events in his support, both offline and online. As the media reported, during the political crisis, new groups of people from the regions of the republic arrived in Bishkek, who claimed to be his supporters, and aggressively and persistently demanded day after day the approval of Sadyr Zhaparov for the post of prime minister, and the resignation of the then president Sooronbai Zheenbekov.

The decisiveness of Zhaparov’s supporters was manifested on October 9 at the Ala-Too square. They dispersed another crowd of people from the square who gathered for a rally against organised crime groups and for the approval of Omurbek Babanov as prime minister. During the clash, several people were seriously injured, including young politician Tilek Toktogaziev and participants of a peaceful rally. Gun shots were heard – the cars of Atambaev and Babanov were shot up, but the politicians were not injured.

After Zhaparov’s appointment as prime minister, his aggressive supporters demanded the president’s resignation. Sooronbai Zheenbekov, who planned to resign only after the new parliamentary election, suddenly announced his resignation on October 15. Supporters of Sadyr Zhaparov, despite the state of emergency and curfew, celebrated their victory in the centre of Bishkek.

What are the plans of Sadyr Zhaparov?

On October 16, the press service of the government published Sadyr Zhaparov’s appeal to the Kyrgyz people, where he outlined the priorities of his work. Zhaparov had previously announced that he wanted to contribute to make Kyrgyzstan a developed state. He promised the renewal and rejuvenation of the staff, as well as a strong fight against corruption, judicial reform, fight against criminals, stabilisation of the economy, restoration of confidence among investors and guarantees of protection and security to entrepreneurs.

By the way

In 2012, Sadyr Zhaparov was accused of illegal acquisition of an office building in the centre of Bishkek at 74 Kievskaya in 2010. The building is believed to have been belonged to the son of ex-president, Maksim Bakiev, before the April 2010 events.

In August 2012, the investigation established that Eldar Madylbekov, the son of a deputy from Ata-Meken faction, was involved in the illegal takeover and further sale.

“Taking advantage of Bilyanin’s absence and the unstable situation in the country, he prepared forged documents of sale to shills with further resale to Sadyr Zhaparov,” prosecutors explained then (cited from 24.kg).

The investigation established that Madylbekov worked for Zhaparov at the National Anti-Corruption Agency.

“In 2010, the building was sold for 19.5 million som. After that, it was registered to shills. Sadyr Zhaparov tried to sell the building to Arzybek Burkanov, the former governor of Batken region. He refused to purchase it. Later on, Zhaparov sold it to some Mamatov, who registered it to the name of his assistant Zhanybek uulu. Zhanybek uulu Shumkarbek was born in 1991 and is the son of Kamchybek Tashiev’s brother. Sadyr Zhaparov proved for a long time that he had no idea about the corruption trail of the building, but it’s hard to believe as he was close to Maksim Bakiev,” Kanybek Turdumambetov, head of the internal investigation department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, said (cited from 24.kg).

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Kyrgyzstan accused Zhaparov of complicity in a crime – buying and selling of property obtained by criminal means, but his colleagues saved him from all courts. The parliament did not agree to bring him to justice as he was a member of parliament back then.

Charges against the sister of Sadyr Zhaparov

Another scandal is associated with Zhaparov’s sister, Raikul Zhaparova. She was put on the international wanted list at the request of Kyrgyzstan, and in February 2020, she was reportedly detained by Interpol in Poland. In Kyrgyzstan, Zhaparov’s sister was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in the “illegal takeover” and “money laundering” via Issyk Kul Invest Bank commercial bank.

According to the investigation, Raikul Zhaparova became the chair of the mentioned bank after the owner and the management of the financial institution was replaced as a result of illegal takeover, and assisted in laundering the funds of the Bakievs family.

Raikul Zhaparova denied all these accusations and stated that the authorities were trying to exert pressure on Sadyr Zhaparov by means of her and force him to stop his political activities.

Nevertheless, the district (October 2014) and city courts (April 2015) of Bishkek in their judgements by default found Raikul Zhaparova guilty of committing crimes under articles “Complicity in a crime, legalisation (laundering) of criminal proceeds”, “Fraud” and “Misuse of authority of employees of commercial and other organisations ”of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison with confiscation of property.

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