BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, March 28 -- Prospects for political stability in this Central Asian country rose Monday as most major political leaders agreed on which of two competing parliaments had the right to rule, and the winning chamber quickly endorsed an interim president.
The breakthrough, four days after the elected president fled during a massive street protest, left Kyrgyzstan with a makeshift government fashioned from incongruous parts.
A Kyrgyz activist shouts during a rally in Bishkek, the capital, against the new session of parliament. The interim president had previously called the elections invalid.
(Sergei Grits -- AP)
The new executive branch is dominated by Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who led the protests. Legislative functions will be fulfilled by the parliament whose disputed election earlier this month sparked the uprising.
"Everybody's being patriotic," said Edil Baisalov, leader of a coalition of civic action groups deeply involved in the campaign against Askar Akayev's government. "Nobody's going to have a showdown."
Under the deal, Bakiyev, a former prime minister, got both his old title and that of president through a hasty 54-to-0 vote of the newly elected legislature.
The outcome disappointed members of the previous parliament, the body in power before the disputed elections. Those members briefly returned after protesters commandeered Akayev's headquarters, known as the White House, on Thursday.
Tensions rose briefly outside the parliament building Monday when police and soldiers formed a cordon against a few dozen frustrated supporters of the old parliament. A handful of government workers hurried out of the building, saying they feared an assault.
"If the new parliament is seated, that means the elections were honest," complained an unsigned statement circulated after the old parliament agreed to dissolve itself Monday morning. "So basically the Revolution of the 24th of March has been overturned in three days."
But much of the talk Monday was of consolidation and compromise. Bakiyev acknowledged reversing himself on earlier declarations that the recent parliamentary elections were invalid. But accommodating the new lawmakers, who include moneyed Akayev supporters, was deemed preferable to alienating a powerful group at a delicate moment.
"Having the old parliament would be more legitimate," said David Mikosz, head of the Bishkek office of IFES, a Washington-based election assistance agency. "But we understand the importance of keeping everybody in the tent, especially since some people spent a lot of money getting elected."
Supporters of the bargain said concerns about individual races should be addressed in court on a case-by-case basis. Baisalov's group, which monitored 62 races, reported problems in 19. "We cannot cast this whole parliament as constitutionally illegitimate," he said.
"If we want to take out someone, it should be done through court," said Felix Kulov, a former Bishkek mayor and state security chief who spent much of the day offering assurances to nervous residents. Kulov, who was jailed by Akayev's government and freed by protesters, offered quiet statements of confidence to merchants at the capital's main bazaar in the morning and a meeting of foreign investors in the afternoon.
Others in this city, crowded with traffic and pedestrians, appeared largely oblivious to the wrangling. Many were more preoccupied with the damage to stores in the night of looting that followed the rebellion.
There was also some dismay that Akayev, the only president Kyrgyzstan has had since the country gained independence in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, was no longer around.
"He did a lot of good. I don't know why he disappeared," said Mira Alieva, who was shopping at the city's large marketplace, open after being barricaded.
"Probably he had enough money, he could afford to leave," another woman added.
David Grant, director of Kyrgyzstan's International Business Council, said the greed of Akayev's family had become a major problem for businesses in the country. Kulov got a laugh from his audience at the bazaar when he said Akayev was entitled to all the property he listed on his public disclosure forms.
Akayev's absence bothered some officials, too. He left without formally resigning, and the newly chosen speaker of parliament said it was important that the position be officially open so that a presidential election can proceed on June 26.
"He could have gone to the state broadcasting company and made a statement," Kulov said in an interview. "But he disappears! You come to the office and your boss has disappeared!"