Kyrgyzstan Opposition 'In Charge'

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Kyrgyzstan Opposition 'In Charge'

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Police clashed with thousands of anti-government protesters in the capital, Bishkek. Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan say they have formed a new acting government in the country, after a day of deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters. (AFP)

Opposition
leaders in Kyrgyzstan say they have formed a new acting government in
the country, after a day of deadly clashes between police and
anti-government protesters.

Opposition party members made the announcement on a state television
channel on Wednesday, shortly after protesters stormed and seized the
channel in the capital, Bishkek.



RIA,
a Russian news agency, cited the opposition as saying that the
government had resigned and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the president, had left
the capital.

An airport official later said Bakiyev had flown out of Bishkek, the AFP news agency reported.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claims.

Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Bishkek, said
opposition members had commandeered one of the main government
television stations earlier in the day.

"They came on air and talked about the situation, appealing for calm
and appealing for people to protect small businesses and shops from
looters.

"But most significantly, they described having formed a people's
assembly and that they've appointed someone to take charge of Bishkek,
which more or less means that they're saying, 'We're in charge. We're
in control. We're now the government'."

Violent clashes

The announcement came after hours of violent clashes in Bishkek, in
which at least 40 people were killed and more than 400 others wounded,
Kyrgyzstan's health ministry said.

But the opposition said at least 100 people  had died.

Thousands of protesters angry over corruption and rising utility
bills had earlier seized government buildings and clashed with riot
police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flash grenades at the
crowd.

Our correspondent said the protesters' grievances are a mixture of political and economic frustrations.

"When it comes to real frustration, it's the economic problems that
really motivate people. The key turning point may have been the
imposition of new utility bill tariffs.

"People's energy bills doubled overnight in January and that caused
serious consternation among a significant part of the population who
are largely poor by international standards.

State of emergency

Authorities declared a nationwide state of emergency following the violence.

Clashes between police and protesters spread to several cities in the north [Reuters]

Wednesday's unrest came a day after thousands of people in the northwest town of Talas stormed regional government offices.

The protesters broke into a government building where they briefly took hostage Bolotbek Beishenbekov, the local administrator.

Hundreds of demonstrators then gathered around a local police station and threw Molotov cocktails at portraits of Bakiyev.   

Omurbek Tekebayev, the leader of opposition party Ata-Meken, said
the protest in Talas was part of a wave of rallies planned by the
opposition to put pressure on Bakiyev to meet their demands.

Tekebayev demanded that Bakiyev urgently tackle corruption and fire his relatives from senior government positions.

Media crackdown

The unrest comes amid rising tensions between the opposition and
Bakiyev's government, which they accuse of cracking down on independent
media and fostering corruption.

Bruce Pannier, a journalist and Kyrgyzstan expert with Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty in Prague, said the president promised to reform the country when he came into office five years ago.

"[But] his fight against corruption hasn't really gone very far in the government," he told Al Jazeera.

"As far as him combating nepotism, the people in Kyrgyzstan know
that he appointed several of his brothers to state positions and that
his son is actually running the Kyrgyz economy.

"As far as an independent media, Kyrgyzstan always had a fairly
vibrant independent media ... but since the start of 2009, the
situation has taken a definite turn for the worst."

Earlier this
month, a Kyrgyz court shut an opposition newspaper and banned two
newspapers close to the opposition, fining them $111,000 for
allegedly insulting Bakiyev.

Bakiyev - who came to power five years ago after street protests led
to the country's so-called Tulip
Revolution which ousted his predecessor - has grown increasingly
unpopular on account of the country's dire economic situation.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished ex-Soviet country in Central Asia, has
long been considered one of the region's most politically unstable
countries.

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