BISHKEK, December 5 (RIA Novosti) – The prime minister of the politically turbulent Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on Thursday dismissed the powerful and outspoken mayor of the country’s second largest city.
Melis Myrzakmatov’s dismissal as mayor of the southern city of Osh follows a speech he made at an anti-government rally earlier this week in which he attacked the authorities as corrupt.
Myrzakmatov was the last top official with links to former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in a bloody uprising in April 2010, to retain such a high-ranking position.
His tenure officially ended last year, but he has been retained as acting mayor since that time, pending definitive approval of a law to turn the Osh mayor’s job into an elected post.
Myrzakmatov has resisted earlier efforts to oust him by summoning thousands of supporters onto the streets in Osh.
The city saw a wave of deadly ethnic violence in June 2010 between Kyrgyz and ethnic minority Uzbeks that left hundreds dead. Many in the Uzbek community accuse Myrzakmatov of complicity in those events and say he has favored his Kyrgyz kinfolk at their economic and political expense.
In city council elections held in March, Myrzakmatov’s Uluttar Birimdigi (Unity of Ethnicities) party won 21 of the 45 available seats, easily edging out President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic Party, which garnered less than one-quarter of the votes.
Myrzakmatov’s ability to retain power has highlighted a north-south divide in Kyrgyzstan that experts on the region warn is a long-term threat to the country’s stability.
The current government mostly has support in the mainly urban north, while Myrzakmatov enjoys substantial backing and influence in the predominantly rural south.
Social Democratic Party deputy Abdymanap Kutushev told Vecherny Bishkek newspaper that he believed Myrzakmatov was fired over a speech at Monday’s rally in which he described the government as having “departed from justice."
The rally, which drew thousands of people, was held in support of an opposition politician recently arrested on corruption charges.
“It is not permissible that government servants at any level make statements that could lead to the destabilization and breakup of the country,” Kutushev said.