Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nationalist, Pro-Russian Parties Prevail in Kyrgyz Elections

By Erica Marat

The October 10th election results have changed the political landscape in Kyrgyzstan. Instead of lauding the Ata-Meken party, which has been behind writing the current constitution that promotes a parliamentary system of governance, Kyrgyz voters have chosen the Ata-Jurt and Ar-Namys parties that wish to reinstall strong presidential power. Overall, five political parties out of 29 were able to overcome the five percent threshold nation-wide.

During the electoral campaign period, Ata-Jurt was accused of instigating inter-ethnic hatred by highlighting that the Kyrgyz are a titular ethnicity and therefore have greater rights and responsibilities compared to ethnic minorities, as reported in a September 16 article. Despite public outcry about Ata-Jurt’s nationalism, the party gained 8.6 percent support, mostly in southern Kyrgyzstan.

No political party was able to rally enough support to gain a majority of seats, and therefore, at least three parties will need to align to form a coalition. It might take days or weeks before coalitions are formed but for now experts speculate that the Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), Respublika and Ata-Meken might join one block. Another scenario suggests that a strong pro-Russia coalition might emerge made of Ata-Jurt, Ar-Namys and Respublika.
In effect, Respublica got a trump card by gaining 7.4 percent of support and is, therefore, able to decide on its own partners. The party’s leader, Ombek Babanov, is likely to demand the position of prime minister in return for building a coalition with competitors.

Chances of Ata-Meken’s leader, Omurbek Tekebayev, becoming prime minister have drastically diminished, as the party, to its own surprise, gained the least support (5.8 percent).

Russia’s influence is obvious. Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov has made his strong relations with Russia a central part of his electoral campaign. His party was supported mainly by ethic Russians and those fearing renewed bloodshed, hoping that Kulov will install order. If he prevails in this political competition and is elected prime minister or becomes a security official, Kulov will pressure the United States to allow Kyrgyzstan closer monitoring of activity at the Transit Center “Manas”.

Leaders of all parties, except for Ata-Meken, were once part of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s regime. Ata-Jurt, in particular, is mostly composed of former loyal supporters of the Bakiyev regime.

Despite uncertain power configurations in the parliament, these were by far the most fair and democratic elections in Central Asia. The results were reflective of the people’s choice. Some cases of election fraud were reportedly detected in southern Kyrgyzstan, but the OSCE’s overall evaluation of the voting process was positive.

There is a great deal of surprise over the results in Bishkek, as most of the city’s residents did not expect Ata-Jurt to prevail. But there is also a general understanding that whatever the results are, they are legitimate and represent the nation’s will.

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