Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 290 - (03/03/05)
In Kyrgyzstan, preliminary results in parliamentary elections on February 27th
gave opposition members only three seats, most having gone to supporters of
President Askar Akayev. He has promised to step down at a presidential election
in October; but critics say he has rigged elections and is trying to fill
parliament with relatives and allies to prolong his rule. Early results from the
vote showed more than half the contests for the 75 parliament seats heading for
runoffs, leaving the political future unsettled for the ex-Soviet republic in
The first-round victors included the son of President Askar Akayev, Aidar,
although the leader's daughter, Bermet Akayeva, must face a runoff. Aidar Akayev
is married to a daughter of Nursultan Nazerbayev of Kazakstan and is considered
a possible successor.
The election was widely seen as a key test for Kyrgyzstan's commitment to
democracy ahead of October presidential elections. Akayev, who has led
Kyrgyzstan since 1990, is prohibited from seeking another term, but the
opposition accused his supporters of plans to manipulate the vote so a compliant
parliament would amend the constitution to allow a third term. Akayev denies
wanting another term.
Some analysts suggest Kyrgyzstan is ripe for an outburst of the mass protests
experienced by other post-Soviet countries. Opposition supporters have begun
protests to disrupt the second round of voting - to be held on March 13th in
more than half of the constituencies. Many are calling for a "tulip"
or "lemon" revolution comparable to Ukraine's Orange Revolution and
the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003.
A number of opposition figures were barred from running in the elections. In one
district where protests broke out, voting was postponed until March 13. In a
second, more than 60 percent of the voters marked their ballots against all
candidates, meaning a new vote must be held there.
Of the remaining 73 seats, about 40 will be contested in a runoff election
because no candidate received an absolute majority, according to early results.
With so many races left undecided, it was unclear how much backing Akayev would
have in the new parliament.
In one of the most heated pre-election disputes, prominent opposition leader
Roza Otunbayeva was excluded from running against Akayev's daughter, Bermet.
Otunbayeva, a former ambassador to the United States, was disqualified under a
law that says candidates must have lived in Kyrgyzstan for the previous five
years. "There were widespread interference by the authorities in the
election process. The authorities didn't give people a free choice,"
Otunbayeva said at the Bishkek opposition rally.
There was no comment from Moscow, which faces another foreign policy crisis soon
when Moldova goes to the polls in a parliamentary election in which all parties
are calling for integration with the West and possible withdrawal from the
Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups former Soviet republics.
Kyrgyzstan reconfigures its soviet-style parliament in line with national
Kyrgyzstan, which used to be part of the USSR, has reconfigured its Soviet-style
legislative branch to bring it into line with national tradition. This is at
least one plus in the occasion.
Until now, the republic has had a bicameral parliament, with its 105 members
elected from party political lists in electoral regions as well as from
single-member constituencies (with the winner in each constituency being the
candidate polling the highest number of votes). The new system replaces the two
legislative chambers with a single one, 75 members strong. This unicameral
legislature is to be formed from candidates who win the highest percentage of
votes in single-member constituencies.
Vladimir Churov, deputy chair of the CIS Affairs Committee in the State Duma, or
Russia's lower house of parliament, monitored the legislative election in
Kyrgyzstan as part of an international CIS observer mission. Commenting on the
ballot, he said that "general principles of democracy can only work if
national particularities are taken into account. And if these are overlooked,
the result will be the same as in Afghanistan, where there was an attempt to
impose the Soviet version of democracy in the 1980s, or like what the US is now
facing in Iraq."
Mr. Churov quoted a high-ranking Kyrgyz politician as saying: "We have seen
the old Russian administrative system's irrelevance in the modern-day
environment, and decided therefore to switch over to the tribal principle of
forming legislative bodies, one that is more natural to the Kyrgyz people."
This principle did indeed reflect itself in the latest parliamentary ballot, Mr.
Churov said. Among the winners of the first round of voting, there are quite a
few names with the nobiliary particles "bai" and "bek."
There is nothing wrong about parliament being formed from representatives of
tribes that enjoy centuries-old popular respect, the Russian MP remarked.
Assessing the voting from the point of view of compliance with democratic
principles, Mr. Churov said he had been visiting polling stations throughout
Election Day and that he had personally interviewed 200 observers representing
candidates and public organizations of Kyrgyzstan. "No serious criticisms
or complaints came from them," he reported.
On the other hand, the observer missions of the CIS and the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have given a different appraisal to
the election, Mr. Churov said. The CIS team has assessed it as "legitimate,
free and transparent," whereas their OSCE counterparts have concluded that
it fell short of OSCE and other international electoral standards. Kimmo
Kiljunen, head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
observer mission, said that the Kyrgyz election "was undermined throughout
the country" by vote-buying, state media bias and disqualification of
opposition candidates. The US Embassy in Bishkek has backed the OSCE, which also
criticised President Akayev for claiming that Ukrainian-style protests could
spark a civil war.
Askar Aitmatov, the Kyrgyz Foreign Minister, said: "The assessment and
conclusions by the OSCE mission were not balanced." But then he would.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Kyrgyzstan had
shown advancements in the balloting since the last parliamentary election five
years ago. But it cited faults, mostly charges of interference with the media.
In the week before the vote, electricity was cut off to the printing house that
puts out most of Kyrgyzstan's independent newspapers and broadcasts of
U.S.-funded Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz-language service were taken off FM
frequencies, the OSCE said. "This is a very, very serious problem, and that
is one of the bases why we are not happy with the election environment in this
country," said Kimmo Kiljunen of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly.
The criticisms were rejected by Central Elections Commission chairman Sulaiman
Imanbayev. "There are double standards in their assessments," he said.
He also noted that observer groups from the Commonwealth of Independent States -
a loose grouping of former Soviet republics - and the Shanghai Cooperation
Council, dominated by Russia, China and several Central Asian nations, did not
report serious violations. It will be noted that not any of these nations have
any democratic traditions whatever, whereas they have long familiarity with the
top-down autocracy of various types of apparatchik officialdom.
Opportunities exist for Russia-Kyrgyzstan cooperation
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, recently received Kyrgyz President, Askar
Akayev, who was on a private visit to Moscow at the invitation of Moscow
university, Irinnews reported.
Putin said the trade relations between the two countries are moderate but there
are opportunities of good cooperation in energy and other industries.
Trade relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan grew by nearly 70 per cent in
January-November 2004. Akayev said that bilateral trade enlarged by 2.5 times
over the past four years. Trade made 180m Euro in 2000, and exceeded 400m Euro
in 2004. The construction of a power plant on the Narym River is one of the
largest bilateral projects, Akayev said.
Putin said that he "is glad to use the occasion" and discuss some
aspects of the bilateral relations. The Kremlin leader offered Akayev to discuss
bilateral interaction in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the
CIS. He said he had signed into law an additional protocol to the Collective
Security Treaty, which allows selling military hardware to member countries at
Russian domestic prices. "Our servicemen have been waiting for this
decision for a long time," Akayev said.
The fifth anniversary of the Russian-Kyrgyz Declaration on Cooperation and
Partnership will be marked this year, he said. "Impressive results have
been achieved, including the opening of a military base in Kant," he noted.
The Kyrgyz parliament has legalised the Russian military base in Kant, which
"will become a key element of security in Central Asia," Akayev said.
The state status of the Russian language in Kyrgyzstan will broaden humanitarian
contacts, he added.