Almost all of Kyrgyzstan’s political parties that registered for the parliamentary elections on December 16 have now identified their top five candidates. Each political party had to come up with a list of 100 candidates for their official party lists. The top five slots tend to go to high-profile figures in order to attract the voters motivated more by name recognition than political platforms.
The top places in President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s political bloc, Ak Zhol, went to the chair of the Constitutional Court, Cholpon Bayekova, and State Secretary Adakhan Madumarov. Their appearance on the presidential bloc’s ballot demonstrates that the top political brass is working to secure strong backing for the president. According to the Kyrgyz Judicial Code of Conduct, judges are not allowed to support any political party or to even express their political views. However, in the past few months Bayekova has been supportive of Bakiyev’s efforts to centralize his power through a constitutional reform package implemented last month.
Ak Zhol also includes a number of well-known individuals who have not been involved in politics before, but are quite popular among the local public. These include the dean of Kyrgyz Slavic University, Vladimir Nifad’yev, surgeon Ernest Akramov, and world boxing champion Orzubek Nazarov.
Political parties are required to include women, representatives of ethnic minorities, and younger members in their lists. Every political party includes some ethnic Russian candidates in their top five positions, although not every party put female candidates at the top. A number of political parties chose to nominate Russian women to meet both the gender and ethnicity quotas in one stroke. In several parties, including Ak Zhol, the youngest candidates are just 25 years old.
Unlike previous expectations, Roza Otunbayeva is not among the top candidates at the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), which is led by Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev. Otunbayeva was among the key figures organizing mass demonstrations against rigged parliamentary elections in February-March 2005. However, when she tried to attain government and parliament positions in 2005, she was not supported by her former political allies.
The government has recently introduced a new hurdle for political parties. To be represented in the parliament, political parties now need to pass a new 0.5% threshold, or more than 14,000 votes, in every oblast in addition to a 5% nation-wide threshold. One representative of an opposition party complained to Jamestown, “A party may win more than 50% in one region, but if it fails to gain 0.5% support in another part of the country it will not be represented in the parliament.” A number of Kyrgyz experts have argued that this statute was incorporated after the constitutional referendum and therefore is a clear sign of the government’s intention to curb the opposition, which may be more popular in some parts of the country but not nation-wide.
Due to this threshold a number of the smaller and newer parties that registered with the Central Elections Commission risk losing the elections. For example, the newly formed Green Party will face fierce competition, as its youthful constituency is mainly based in Bishkek. It has loudly criticized the October 21 constitutional referendum. Also, Bakiyev’s main opposition leader, former prime minister Felix Kulov, might not be able to gain the necessary 0.5% across the country, as his Ar Namys party is unpopular in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Meanwhile, police arrested a group of activists protesting the recent political developments in the country on charges of using “provocative” posters at their recent demonstrations in central Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. Their posters did not include any direct accusations against state leaders, however, and they were by far less aggressive than in previous demonstrations.
As it stands today, Ak Zhol is the only political group that will be able to gain more than 50% of seats in the parliament. A few opposition parties, including Omurbek Tekebayev’s Ata-Meken and Atambayev’s SDPK, may form coalitions in the parliament. But it is highly unlikely that, even if opposition parties cooperate in parliament, they will be strong enough to significantly counter-balance Ak Zhol. It is also doubtful that the Communist party, which includes a number of known communists on its election list, will be able to gain significant representation in the parliament.
The December 16 parliamentary elections are likely to have greater number of female representatives, famous public figures, and ethnic Russians, but will not necessarily be more democratic.
(Akipress.kg, 24.kg, November 10-14)