The Most Democratic Election in the Post-Soviet Space

The geopolitical environment in the region, and specifically the Islamic State stepping up operations in Afghanistan and on Tajikistan’s border, pushed Kyrgyzstan to embrace its Eurasian future.

Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections. Of 14 political parties on the ballots only six reached the electoral threshold of 7 percent.

International observers, including OSCE representatives, hailed the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan as democratic. I would add that this was the most democratic elections anywhere in the CIS in recent years. With electronic ballot boxes, the election results could be announced right after the polls closed. But it is not just about the ballot boxes. There are other facts proving that the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan were transparent, and, even more importantly, democratic.

Specifically, in 2007 a new provision was added to the country’s Election Code, requiring that party lists have at least one woman per two male candidates. In the run-up to the 2015 elections, Kyrgyzstan’s legislature made further improvements to the national election law by not just taking into account the country’s ethnic and regional specifics, but also introducing the so-called quotas for women and youth.

However, I believe that the main reason for the democratic nature of the recent parliamentary elections is that the government did not try to use administrative leverage to win more votes. In doing this, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev proved that he is not just a respected politician with a strategic vision, but also a modern leader committed to democratic values.

The election results included the following: the Social Democratic Party won 38 seats in with 27.3 percent of the vote, 28 seats went to the Respublika–Ata-Zhurt party with 20.3 percent, the Kyrgyzstan Party won 18 seats at 12.8 percent, Onuguu–Progress had 9.3 percent and 13 seats, Bir Bol party received 12 seats at 8.35 percent, and Ata Meken Socialist Party had 7.79 percent of the vote and 11 seats.

Have expert forecasts turned out to be true?

The parliamentary election results in Kyrgyzstan were predictable. The President’s Social Democratic Party was expected to win and improve its results compared to 2010, when it came in second place, trailing on the heels of the Ata-Zhurt party.

In the recent elections, the Social Democratic Party won by a large margin. The fact that Ata-Zhurt merged with the Respublika party, which was fourth in 2010, did not help it maintain the lead or compete against the presidential party.

In fact, what was intriguing about the election was the attempt to secure a victory by merging the two parties.

Experts were correct in predicting that their prior results would not necessarily add up. On the contrary, some Ata-Zhurt supporters refused to vote for the new party after it merged with Respublika, and vice versa.

The predictions turned out to be true: the party lost some of the support it had as separate parties, which benefited newcomers such as the Kyrgyzstan Party.

By the way, another interesting aspect of this election was the fact that the third largest party in the parliament had also changed. The Ar-Namys party failed to reach the 7 percent threshold, while the Kyrgyzstan Party, a new party in the parliamentary race, came in third, which few pundits expected.

The winner, the Social Democratic Party, has already begun building a majority coalition, and experts think that of six parties that made it into the parliament, only Ata Meken will remain in the opposition.

Will Kyrgyzstan remain committed to developing relations with Russia and other EurAsEc countries?

Parliamentary elections were held in Kyrgyzstan as the country’s leadership sought to strengthen ties with members of the Eurasian Economic Union, primarily Kazakhstan and Russia. Over 80% of the Kyrgyz population are said to favor Eurasian integration, polls show.

The geopolitical environment in the region, and specifically the Islamic State stepping up operations in Afghanistan and on Tajikistan’s border, pushed the country to embrace its Eurasian future.

Opinion surveys clearly show that people in Kyrgyzstan have grown tired of instability and poverty. They overwhelmingly (about 85 percent) support the current President as he seeks to promote stability and a sovereign development path.

There is an understanding in Kyrgyzstan that maintaining peace within the country and promoting sustained growth depends to a large extent on Kazakhstan and Russia’s support. This goes for direct support (allocations for improving border security, etc.), subsidized loans and investment, as well as joining efforts to upgrade the national economy by developing the industrial sector and finished goods manufacturing.

Having the possibility to have its workforce trained at Kazakhstani and Russian universities is another asset for Kyrgyzstan, along with the opportunity for its youth to work in Russia. The money these workers send back to their country is a major factor in helping the population to be more prosperous and in revitalizing the national economy.

I believe the recent elections in Kyrgyzstan to be not just an important factor of political stability in this country and the region in general, but also a powerful economic development driver.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.