Thousands of opposition demonstrators have staged a rally in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, calling for more democracy.
Theirs was a peaceful protest in which police distributed flowers to marchers. But their ultimatum to the president was unequivocal. Unless he meets their demands for more democracy, they want him to step down. The nation has been volatile since Kurmanbek Bakiyev took over last year, after a coup that ousted his long-serving predecessor. But protesters complain that despite the new faces, nothing has really changed. “The previous political regime, which was corrupt, remained intact,” said one man. Bakiyev was fiercely popular and won a presidential election by a landslide last July, pledging to bring order and democracy. But when he appeared at the rally, in a bid to defend his record, he was booed and whistled at by the crowd. “In one year of power, it was impossible to radically change a regime which had taken 15 years to form,” the president said. But the opposition is in no mood to wait. It has given him until May 27 to limit presidential powers, give more authoritiy to parliament and the prime minister, and crack down on corruption and crime.