Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 322 - (26/10/07)
Referendum boosts the government
Kyrgyzstan voted on a set of constitutional amendments on October 21 in a
referendum which has already led to snap parliamentary polls that will boost
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's grasp on power in the Central Asian state.
Kyrgyzstan, home to a U.S. and a Russian military base, has been unstable since
2005 when mass protests ousted veteran leader Askar Akayev and brought Bakiyev
to power. Ever since, Bakiyev has been at loggerheads with parliament, which is
packed with his opponents, elected under Akayev's rule.
Revolution to be completed
"If the referendum passes, Bakiyev will be able to gain substantial powers
over the parliament and government," Eurasia Daily Monitor, published by
the Washington-based think tank, the Jamestown Foundation, wrote in a note.
The changes strengthen Bakiyev's authority in picking the prime minister and
cabinet members and dissolving parliament. Analysts expect Bakiyev to call early
elections as soon as December, though he has not said whether he will do so.
The amendments also change the election process from a single-constituency
system to a proportional all-party list, which should help Bakiyev gain a power
base in the chamber through his newly formed Ak Zhol party.
Bakiyev, elected in 2005 a vote judged free and fair by Western monitors, is
seen as a relative liberal in Central Asia, but his moves to consolidate power
echo those of other ex-Soviet leaders who have tightened their grip on power in
In neighbouring Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is head of a party,
which controls all seats in the lower house. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin
plans to head the pro-Kremlin party's list in a December parliamentary election.
Politicians say a tougher approach by Bakiyev, accused of not being aggressive
enough to end infighting and focus on urgent matters such as poverty, would help
ease tensions. "Some see authoritarian tendencies in the constitution. But
it is still a step forward," said Melis Yeshimkanov, a deputy. "The
foundation has been laid. It will be parties and ideas, not clans or business
groups, who will be fighting for seats."
But some were sceptical in a country where public discontent has been brewing
because of rising food prices and crime. A turnout below 50 percent was to
render the referendum invalid. It was narrowly reached.
New political party
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on October 15 announced the creation of a new
political party -- the Best Path Popular Party (Ak Jol Eldik Partiyasi).
President Bakiyev vowed in September that he would help form a new political
party. But he also said that he wanted the new party to win a majority of seats
in parliament -- something that has not happened since Kyrgyzstan gained
independence in 1991.
"You know, we have many various parties, more than 100, but what kind of
parties are these?" Bakiyev asked. "Among them there are few that are
willing to assume responsibility for the affairs of the country. In the best
cases, they simply criticize the authorities for their mistakes. But who will,
who should, take care of affairs? Which political forces [or] political parties
have done real work, have made progress toward those goals that stand before the
country? Up until today, there haven't been any."
On October 16, a day after Bakiyev was elected party chairman, he suspended his
activities as leader of the Best Path Popular Party, saying that as president he
could not participate in party politics. But his goal remains seeing the party
The Best Path Popular Party became the 102nd registered political party or
movement in Kyrgyzstan. About half of those groups are no longer active, and
many of the remaining parties and movements have just a handful of members. Few
can claim more than 10,000 members in a country of more than 5 million.
A Ruling Party?
If the Best Path Popular Party achieves an outright majority in parliament, it
would be a first. But that might not be cause for celebration.
Kyrgyzstan's Central Asian neighbours all have ruling parties. Through more than
16 years of independence, it is Kyrgyzstan that has been widely viewed as the
most democratic in the region, (or the least tyrannical) -- as well as the
country that most respects human rights and basic freedoms.
In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan party claimed every seat
in the lower house of parliament in elections this year.
In Tajikistan, the People's Democratic Party of President Emomali Rahmon
controls more than 90 percent of the seats in parliament.
Turkmenistan has a single registered political party, the Democratic Party,
which is headed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.
In Uzbekistan, there are effectively five ruling parties -- the People's
Democratic Party, the Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrificers) Party, the Adolat Social
Democratic Party, the Liberal-Democratic Party, and the Milli Tiklanish
(National Renaissance) party -- all of which steadfastly support President Islam
If the new Kyrgyz party wins a majority in parliament, many will question
whether the country is better off with what could be a rubberstamp parliament
that would legitimize any decision by Bakiyev.
That is especially relevant since Kyrgyz voters are being asked to approve a new
constitution that alters the balance of power among branches of government.
Referendums in the 1990s and in 2003 consolidated power into the hands of the
presidency. Now, with the legislative branch set to receive a greater voice in
the affairs of government, parliament could be packed with members of the party
that the president created.
Kyrgyzstan's opposition is aware of that possibility, and some groups are
already working to join forces ahead of the elections to compete against the
Best Path Popular Party.
But among the pro-presidential parties, some members are ready to join Bakiyev's
new group, as Akmatbek Keldibekov, a lawmaker from the pro-presidential Atajurt
(Fatherland), told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "The negotiations and
consultations are going on. Now, because the president has established a party,
I suppose, we, the four or five lawmakers from the Atajurt party who have
supported the president's policies, will join the Best Path Popular Party and we
will continue to support presidential policy," Keldibekov said.
But there are also signs that some of the more established parties will work
hard to maintain their hard-won identities -- and instead see the elections as a
chance to consolidate their own positions.
Edil Baisalov, executive secretary of Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev's Social
Democratic Party, said that his party would not join with any other bloc, and
would even avoid any association with certain politicians.
"We, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, are ready for elections
even now. There are people whom we would like to invite into the party. However,
we will not merge with those parties that consist of formerly or currently
corrupt people, pro-governmental people, [or] those who would use state power to
pursue their personal interests," Baisalov said.