Jeenbekov tells journalists predecessor Atambayev tried to turn him into 'controlled leader'
BISHKEK. Nov 16 (Interfax) - Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has told the news agency 24.kg that the last time he met with ex-Kyrgyz president and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) Almazbek Atambayev was March 29, before the party congress where the former head of state accused him of corruption and blamed for the accident at the Bishkek Thermal Power Plant.
Jeenbekov said he "was surprised at this drastic change of events" and noted that attempts to turn him into a "controlled leader" do no credit to the former president.
"Last time we met was before the SDPK congress. We talked for more than four hours. We haven't talked since then," Jeenbekov told Kyrgyz reporters.
"I was surprised by his statement on March 31, four months after my inauguration, in the first difficult period of my demanding work as president. He accused me of corruption and blamed me for the incident at the Bishkek TPP at the time," the Kyrgyz president said.
"Old representatives of party chapters from the Osh region, who had pioneered the party at the most difficult times for both the party itself and for Atambayev, were not allowed to attend the SDPK congress. I was surprised at this drastic change of events," Jeenbekov said.
The Kyrgyz president said he "has never discussed splitting" with Atambayev. "We were fellow party members and associates for a long time," Jeenbekov said.
However, Atambayev tried to turn him into a "controlled leader," he said.
"Attempts to turn me into a controlled leader via third parties, to control my actions, all of that does credit to him neither as a person, nor as an ex-president, nor as a fellow party member, nor as an associate," Jeenbekov said.
"I could not understand these aspirations of his. He often talks about those 20 years [of work in the party], but I wasn't twiddling my thumbs all those years. Together with fellow party members, I was engaged in strengthening the party's positions, especially in the Osh region, Batken, and Jalalabad," he said.
"I was always beside him at the most trying time for our party, especially in the south of the country. Even when everyone fled from him, I remained near him, despite the threat to the security of myself, my family, my relatives and loved ones. [...] I don't want to thump my chest, but this is reality. And he has known and knows that well," Jeenbekov said, adding that "calling me a traitor is a favorite trend of his [Atambayev's] political consultants, but time will tell who is who."
Jeenbekov assumed office almost a year ago; the SDPK, his party since the early 1990s, nominated him as its candidate. He was considered a close friend of Atambayev, who repeatedly pointed out that they were old friends.
At the SDPK congress on March 31, Atambayev harshly criticized his successor and his entourage, referring to nepotism in his personnel policy.
According to experts, since the congress, there have been signs of a split in the party; the parliamentary faction of the SDPK effectively became controlled by the president, as shown by the dismissal of Prime Minister Sapar Isakov, who had also been nominated by the party, following a vote of no-confidence.
Isakov and several former high-ranking Kyrgyz officials, Atambayev's close associates, have been arrested on corruption charges. The parliament is discussing the possibility of stripping ex-president Atambayev of immunity.