Parliamentary Elections in Kyrgyzstan: Predictable Results

A few days ago Kyrgyzstan held the most peaceful elections to Zhogorku Kenesh (Parliament) in its entire history.

Owing to the use of voters’ biometrical data and electronic ballot boxes, the initial information about election results appeared just 40 minutes after the closing of polling stations.

Fourteen parties took part in the elections. The pro-presidential Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) was the favorite, with a chance to take about 30 to 40 percent of seats.

In all, about 120 people’s representatives were to be elected to Parliament on party slates. Out of 14 participating parties, six topped the seven percent republican barrier and also got no less than 0.7 percent of votes in each region, as well as in the cities of Bishkek and Osh.

According to the preliminary data presented by the Central Election Commission, the SDPK is in the lead with 27.44 percent of votes. President Almazbek Atambayev is its unofficial leader. In all, 37 or 38 Social Democrats were elected to parliament on the party slate. At the previous elections in 2010 the SDPK won 26 seats.

The second place went to a moderate opposition group, Respublika – Ata Zhurt, which is a coalition of two parties – northern and southern. This group won 20.07 percent of votes and 29 seats in parliament. The party’s MPs include former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, former Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbayev, members of the fifth parliament, business people, and public figures. At the previous elections, the Respublika won 23 MP mandates as compared to Ata Zhurt’s 28. The coalition has considerable financial resources, as well as media access, including its own NTS TV Channel in Bishkek.

The third place was taken by the newcomer Kyrgyzstan party, with 12.8 percent of the vote. It will have about 18 seats in parliament.

On the whole, the recent elections can be described as follows:

1. The elections were transparent and competitive. Even OSCE observers offered no serious criticisms, given that their estimates are usually biased, to say the least. The parties enjoyed equal opportunities for campaigning. There was no “administrative resource.” Any miscalculations during the voting can be attributed to technical causes.

President Almazbek Atambayev said at the meeting with the heads of the international observer delegations: “Preparations for the elections were accompanied by hysteria on the part of NGOs, as well as certain politicians and parties.” He added that this was the first time that his country held elections using new technologies. The preparations for the ballot were complicated by shows of displeasure staged by certain human rights activists and politicians. “Tensions were being fanned in the country, up to and including games in the Constitutional Court,” Atambayev said. “These people were acting on someone else’s orders. They wanted the elections to be held on the old model and to be accompanied by rallies, unrest and destabilization. The current situation speaks for itself. It’s up to observers to make remarks and it’s up to some journalists to throw dirt at the country, but the situation is stable,” the president summed up.

2. Openly anti-Russian and anti-integration parties did not take part in the elections. Supporters of an orientation toward the United States and the West failed to form a united front and had to participate in the ballot as part of other parties. Their most notable leaders (Asylbek Zheyenbekov and Omurbek Abdrakhmanov) joined Felix Kulov’s Ar Namys, which headed the ruling coalition in the fifth parliament. The pro-Americans should be given “credit” for Ar Namys’ failure to win even one percent of the vote.

3. The election campaign was dominated by domestic political problems rather than foreign policy issues. The only exception was the issue of Kyrgyzstan’s participation in the Eurasian Economic Union, which was reflected in the platforms of practically all participants in the elections. Almost all political forces of Kyrgyzstan positioned themselves as “pro-Eurasian” and “pro-Russian” (according to Kyrgyz sociologists, about 80 percent of the Kyrgyz population support close cooperation with Russia). This is a serious trend that may determine Kyrgyzstan’s future in the next few years.

4. Weak nationalist parties. The emergence of strong nationalist blocs could have become one of the possible political scenarios in Kyrgyzstan, but this is not the case for the time being. All attempts to create a united patriotic or opposition nationalist movement get stuck in the fighting for power among its potential leaders.

5. The main difference of the sixth parliament from its predecessor will be its greater amenability to control, less public fighting and fewer scandals. The legislative and executive branches of power in Kyrgyzstan have not been particularly effective. A lack of results and a polycentric model with many politicians and structures seeking to pursue their own interests, which do not always tally with those of the state, represent one of the main obstacles to Kyrgyzstan’s economic development.

At the same time, the new parliament will have to operate amid a worsening socio-economic situation. Kyrgyzstan has very few resources available to resolve its problems and there is practically no alternative to relying on assistance from Russia and China.

6. A voter turnout of more than 50 percent means serious support for the political course of Atambayev’s party. Kyrgyzstan has to carry out a systemic modernization in both political and economic spheres.

The current situation in Kyrgyzstan shows that local politicians do not have a clear vision of their country’s development prospects. Decision-making is mostly based on tactical or outside considerations. Today the country is plunged in an economic crisis and social tensions are expected to grow. For the time being, its only achievement is a relative stabilization in its public and political life.

Kyrgyzstan is trying to learn to live without revolutions and upheavals. The low quality of its elite makes this task difficult to achieve and there is no guarantee of a positive outcome. The republic is able to rely on the support of its partners, with which it has signed agreements on closer ties. However, no partners will be of any help – neither Russian bayonets, nor Chinese money nor US democracy – if the government fails to ensure normal life in the country.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.