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

Kyrgyzstan Set for One-Party Parliament

An apparent landslide victory by the president’s party could leave it controlling all the seats in the legislature.
By Nurlan Kashkaraev
Kyrgyzstan looks set to have a one-party parliament, in what opposition parties have described as a grave setback for the country’s democratic development.

Preliminary results from the December 16 parliamentary election showed the Ak Jol People’s Party, which President Kurmanbek Bakiev set up two months ago, heading for a landslide victory with least 48 per cent of the votes cast.

That put it far ahead of its nearest rival, the Ata Meken party, which received about nine per cent, according to the early figures.

Under Kyrgyzstan’s controversial election rules, parties not only have to win five per cent of the voters listed on the national electoral roll to claim seats in parliament but must also gather 0.5 per cent of the same total in each of seven electoral regions and in two cities – Bishkek and Osh. The latter provision means parties must win more than 13,500 votes even in sparsely populated regions where this represents a high percentage of the voting-age population.

With early results suggesting Ata Meken had failed to cross the 13,500-vote barrier in the southern Batken province, commentators were forecasting that Kyrgyzstan’s most important opposition party might not get a single seat.

Kimmo Kiljunen, coordinator of the OSCE’s election observer mission in Kyrgyzstan, said he was “disappointed” with the results announced so far and with its conduct. It was, he said, a “step backwards from the situation in the [last] 2005 election”.

For one thing, Kiljunen said, opposition parties were given little chance to get their message across. “Debates were being held too late – after 11 pm - and candidates and parties had difficulties in getting access to the media,” he said.

The OSCE official criticised the regional threshold provision, and added that some election monitors had been forced to leave the polling stations they were attending, while others noticed Ak Jol posters inside polling centres.

Tolekan Ismailova of the Citizens Against Corruption group, dismissed the early results as a fraud.

She said election observers deployed by her group had told her they believed Ak Jol and the opposition parties were running neck and neck.

Ismailova said the authorities were trying to use the “administrative resource” - the popular term for the formidable powers the incumbent authorities can call on to swing a favourable result – “to make the parliament a single-party body”.

“These elections represent a threat to each of us because of the unprecedented use of power against the electorate,” she added.

Ak Jol is a relative newcomer to the political scene in Kyrgyzstan, having only appeared in October, days before President Bakiev won a constitutional referendum and decreed the dissolution of parliament.

Many observers, including the OSCE, claimed the referendum held on October 21 was marred by widespread fraud and ballot-stuffing.

Despite that, the new Kyrgyz constitution and the accompanying electoral code laying down new procedures for general elections passed into law.

On the eve of the parliamentary vote, Ak Jol filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court, demanding the cancellation of the regional 0.5 per cent threshold. While the party said it objected to the rule on principle, some observers maintained it was only going through the motions by pretending to sympathise with the opposition parties most likely to be excluded by the regional threshold.

Other observers, however, believe that Ak Jol does not aspire to be the sole occupant of the legislature, and would ideally prefer to split the opposition in two - welcoming part of it into parliament and leaving the rest outside.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a verdict on the regional threshold on or around December 18. If the Supreme Court does not cancel the 0.5 per cent requirement, Ak Jol will most likely take all 90 seats in the chamber.

If the court overturns the provision, on the other hand, the situation will partially turn in favour of the opposition, and at least one other party will get some seats in parliament, albeit not many. Some 80 per cent of the seats will still go to Ak-Jol, with perhaps 20 per cent for Ata Meken”.

One question now is whether the opposition will accept the final election results when they come, or try to mobilise its supporters to protest in the streets. Kyrgyzstan’s last president, Askar Akaev, was forced to flee the country in 2005 following election results that many deemed fraudulent.

Anara Dautalieva, who acted as an independent election observer, said the likely results would be greeted with incredulity.

“In the Ysyk-Ata precinct, for example, less than 30 per cent of constituents participated in the election,” she said. “There was no 80 per cent, as they announced.”

She predicted, "I think it is going to end up in mass turmoil.”

Cholpon Jakupova, a member of Ata-Meken, dismissed the idea that her party received only nine per cent of the vote.

“I know that in Bishkek we got 80 per cent of the votes,” she said.

Nurlan Kashkaraev is an IWPR editor in Bishkek, and Gulnara Mambetalieva a regular IWPR contributor.

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