Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kyrgyz Opposition Queries Election Figures

Opposition groups say the failure to release detailed information on the December election suggests the results are questionable.
By IWPR Central Asia
Three months after a watershed -election, Kyrgyz opposition groups are questioning the legitimacy of the outcome on the grounds that a detailed breakdown showing who voted for which party has never been published.

The pro-presidential Ak Jol party won a landslide victory in the December 16 polls, giving it 70 of the 90 seats in parliament – and under a new constitution approved in October, the right to name a prime minister. The Social Democrats got 11 seats and the Communists nine, but a controversial regulation left some major opposition parties completely excluded.

As the weeks go by with no detailed results in the public domain, the outcome is being increasingly queried.

On March 11, the Bishkek-based Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society brought a court case against the Central Election Commission, CEC, in hope of forcing it to disclose how the vote broke down in each polling district.

Dinara Oshurakhunova, leader of the coalition, told IWPR that it asked the CEC to publicise information about the district-level voting in January but had not received a reply.

The CEC has released information on how many people voted nationally and on the number of votes each party received in each of the nine large administrative regions.

However, as Oshurakhunova points out, it is the details that count.

“The CEC has not provided full information about how many ballot papers were prepared… and how many of these were spoiled,” she said.

In addition, she said, there is no information on the crucial question of how the vote broke down district by district at constituency level.

The election was the first to be held proportional representation rules, awarding seats according to the share of the vote won by each party.

This seemed a reasonably fair system, until a controversial ruling from the CEC only a month before the election changed the system for allocating seats.

Now each party not only had to win the support of five per cent of the voters listed on the national electoral roll, estimated at 2.7 million people, it had also to get 0.5 per cent of the same national total in each of the nine electoral regions. That worked out as 13,500 votes in each of seven provinces plus the cities of Bishkek and Osh.

In sparsely populated regions like Naryn and Batken, this figure represented a huge percentage of the voting-age population. Add to this the large-scale seasonal migration of Kyrgyz workers to Russia and Kazakstan, significant levels of voter apathy, and the participation of several parties, and it was apparent that even some strong contenders were never going to win the required number of votes in all nine regions.

This appears to be what happened to at least two major parties, Ata Meken and Ar-Namys, which ended up with no seats in the legislature and have now joined those calling for greater clarity on the election results.

Last week, Ar-Namys issued a statement saying that in the absence of detailed figures, the public must “doubt the election result and thus also the legitimacy of the powers of parliament”.

According to Emil Aliev, one of the party’s leaders, “The CEC has deliberately not released information on the election results… in order to conceal the real results of the vote.”

Aliev said Ar-Namys wanted to compare the official voting figures with the tally its own observers had compiled, covering most of the country.

Ata Meken’s leader, Temir Sariev, told IWPR that the CEC’s actions constituted a gross violation of Kyrgyzstan’s election legislation, and suggested that the voting results had been falsified.

“The CEC must publish the results of elections within the period of time dictated by law, but it has not done so,” he said. “It is likely that the CEC is afraid to do so, because many people know who voted and how they voted in these elections.”

Political scientist Syrgak Abdyldaev agreed that the failure to announce comprehensive results raised suspicions.

“The CEC has something to conceal,” he said. “Its position suggests these elections were unfair.”

Abdyldaev predicted that if the CEC were to reveal the results, the consequences could be “explosive”, as people compared them with voting figures obtained from other sources.

However, Myrzabek Arginbaev, a senior official in the CEC, insisted there was no political conspiracy behind the decision to withhold the full results. Opposition members and rights groups were demanding the impossible, he said.

“There are about 3,000 electoral districts in Kyrgyzstan in all,” he pointed out. “How can we provide all that information in detail?” he asked. “No newspaper would even provide enough space.”

Arginbaev then admitted that the CEC did not even have the district-level electoral returns – it merely compiled its data from the aggregated documents sent in by regional-level election officers.

He nevertheless insisted that the CEC had not broken the electoral code, as the regulations did not in fact oblige it to publish election results compiled at the lowest tier.

Roza Otunbaeva, a former foreign minister who represents the Social Democrats in parliament, believes that Ak Jol as the governing party should be at the forefront of demands for transparency.

“If questions arise, it casts a shadow over them [Ak Jol], so it would make complete sense for them to tackle this issue,” she said.

Elmira Ibraimova, an Ak Jol member of parliament, said the CEC “probably has its reasons” for not publishing the full election results – but she still said the opposition had a fair point in asking for them.

Gulnara Mambetalieva is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.