8 Aug 2018 12:44

Aziz Surakmatov elected Bishkek mayor

BISHKEK. Aug 8 (Interfax) - The Bishkek City Council elected Aziz Surakmatov mayor at a special session on Wednesday; he was the only candidate, an Interfax correspondent has reported.

The deputies did not discuss the candidate's program before the vote. They said the candidate "had detailed conversations with the factions to present his vision and program for the city's development."

The majority coalition in the Bishkek City Council nominated Surakmatov for mayor. The fact that he was the only candidate was met with indignation by the public.

By law, the mayor is elected by the City Council in a secret ballot and needs to receive at least two-thirds of members' votes.

There are 45 deputies in the Bishkek City Council, and 44 took part in the special session on Wednesday. Forty-three deputies voted for Surakmatov, with one opposed. Mayors serve for four years but can be removed from office early.

Civil and human rights activists held a protest near the City Hall during the vote. They demanded that the single-candidate election be stopped to prevent its being won by the owner of a big construction business and the resultant conflict of interest.

No more than 50 protesters carried effigies of members of the City Council and signs reading "No to Corruption," "No to Restaurants, Cafes, and Bazaars in City Parks," and "No to Chaotic City Development," and chanting, "The City Council Must Resign" and "Surakmatov Come Out."

"Angry citizens and civil society representatives have decided to protest the non-transparent mayoral nomination and the non-competitive election," Ravshan Jeenbekov, a protester and a former parliamentary deputy, told Interfax.

"Unfortunately, turnout is low, but I believe that's not important; the very fact that people are protesting matters. Our authorities do not listen closely until a certain point, but this makes our people, civil society, more energetic, and I am confident that they will have to listen and reckon with us in the coming months," Jeenbekov said.

This has nothing to do with protests, Jeenbekov said. Civil activists and former and incumbent politicians are intent on "establishing a self-governing council to monitor the activity of mayors and stop their illegal and unfair doings in cities. Public monitoring of the authorities is an international practice," he added.

Surakmatov, 46, is a graduate of the Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport, and Architecture and the Kyrgyz National University.

He has occupied various positions in the Bishkek city administration, chaired the Bishkek City Council, and served on the Kyrgyz parliament.

An early mayoral election was scheduled after the City Council passed a vote of no confidence in Mayor Albek Ibraimov on July 13 and the mayor was removed from office on the prime minister's orders on July 19.

The former mayor faces several criminal charges, and the Kyrgyz National Security Committee accused him of corruption on July 21. Ibraimov was put in the National Security Committee's detention center.