Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 205

As could be expected, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev has easily won reelection to a five-year term, his third since 1991. Akaev was credited with 74 percent of the votes cast in the October 29 balloting. He defeated three leftist or left-leaning challengers. Socialist Ata-Meken [Fatherland] Party candidate Omurbek Tekebaev was the runner-up with 14 percent of the votes cast. Almazbek Atambaev, head of the Forum industrial group, received 6 percent. Three other candidates garnered 1 percent or less. Among them is the only practicing Muslim candidate, Tursunbay Bakiruulu. The voter turnout was 75 percent.

Communist and pro-Russian groups supported Akaev’s two main challengers. The real power behind Tekebaev is Feliks Kulov, a former state security officer reportedly with a KGB background. Before the election, Tekebaev had declared that he hoped to benefit from Kulov’s organizational network and finances. In return he promised to appoint Kulov as prime minister in the event of electoral victory. Kulov had cast himself as defender of the interests of Kyrgyzstan’s “Russian-speaking” population. Leaders of the Party of Communists, one of the country’s two communist parties, supported the Tekebaev-Kulov tandem.

Leaders of the larger, “mainstream” Communist Party supported Atambaev’s candidacy. Both of those teams promised voters a “new socialism.” These two candidates split the leftist and Russian vote. In the capital city Bishkek, where that vote is concentrated, Akaev registered his lowest score–just under 66 percent of the votes cast.

More than 300 international observers monitored the final stage of the electoral campaign, the balloting and the vote counting. They joined more than 1,000 internal observers delegated by political and public organizations and a wide range of Kyrgyz nongovernmental groups, some of them openly partisan. The observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) issued a highly critical preliminary assessment, focusing on the pre-election stage. It found that state media were heavily biased in favor of the incumbent president and that state officials at all levels campaigned for him down to election day. The observers also noted some procedural violations on voting day, but not any significant outright fraud which might have affected the outcome (Kabar news agency, Bishkek Radio, Kyrgyz Television, Itar-Tass, October 27-November 1; see the Monitor, September 20, October 27; the Fortnight in Review, September 22).