04/11/2007, 00.00
Kyrgyzstan
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Thousands take to the streets demanding President Bakiyev’s resignation

Tens of thousands of protesters rally against the Kyrgyz leader in Bishkek. The opposition blames him for not keeping his promises of reform and economic development. But Bakiyev seems bent on resisting calls for his resignation. As the country splits, the dangers of social instability rise.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of people today took to the streets of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, calling for the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. However, Mr Bakiyev has shown no signs that he is ready to go. Fears are growing that the confrontation may lead to greater social instability in the Central Asian country.

Protesters started their march from Jengish (Victory) Square toward Alatoo (Freedom) Square, chanting as they walked: "Bakiyev Go! Bakiyev Must Go!"

On Alatoo Square, about 100 yurts and tents have been set up to accommodate those planning to stay overnight. Some 4,000 policemen and security forces have been deployed to maintain order but have not intervened yet.

For months, opposition groups have called for constitutional reform and presidential elections. Mr Bakiyev, who came to power riding a wave of protest against former President Askar Akayev in March 2005, is accused of failing to live up to his promises like constitutional reform, fight against corruption and holding elections.

Following a mass demonstration in November 2006 he appointed Social Democratic leader Almazbek Atambayev to the post of prime minister in order to remain in power by dividing the opposition.

Yesterday, in an attempt to defuse the current situation, Bakiyev signed a package of constitutional amendments that will reduce his power and sent them to parliament for review.

Speaking on national TV he accused opposition leaders of organising today's rally to further their own political ambitions through a “coup d’état.”

United Front for a Decent Future for Kyrgyzstan, the main opposition group, rejected the proposed reforms.

Today’s demonstration is set to be the first in a series. But it comes at a time of rising social instability in a country divided between a northern part that is pro-Bakiyev and the south which is dominated by the opposition.

In the meantime, Bakiyev supporters are organising pro-government demonstrations in Bishkek, Jalalabad and other cities.

Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian country with a US military base that provides crucial logistical support for NATO troops operating in Afghanistan.

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