Kyrgyzstan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

On Sunday, 16 December, President Bakiyev’s party Ak Zhol won absolute victory in the first proportional elections in Kyrgyzstan. According to the Central Election Commission, Ak Zhol won 48% of the vote against the two main opposition parties, the Social Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Atambayev and the Ata Meken party, led by former parliament speaker Tekebayev. The latter was the only party to pass the required threshold of 5% needed to make it into the chamber, with 9.3%. However, it did not pass the separate 0.5% requirement of the vote in each of the seven regions and two main cities.

The opposition has repeatedly voiced allegations that the vote was rigged and threatened to renew protests and demonstrations. Alleged fraud in the 2005 elections led to mass protests and toppled the autocratic regime of then-President Askar Akayev.

Bakiyev’s party has stated that it will follow the Russian and Kazakhstan model of a one-party parliament.

In comparison to other countries in the Central Asia region, Kyrgyzstan is the only country where some form of civil society and political opposition exist legally. Despite the absolute defeat of the opposition in the Sunday elections, it is highly likely that the opposition will attempt to mobilize itself and seek financial and moral support from Western democracies. Although Bakiyev and his party Ak Zhol won clear victory, they are not highly likely to be able to sustain the expanding influence of opposition leaders, nor the popular discontent from economic depression and spreading impoverishment. The confidence in Russia’s United Russia party and Kazakhstan’s Nur Otan do not translate well in the Kyrgyz circumstances. Ak Zhol is a conglomerate of people with widely different views. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that they will be able to form a monolithic faction in the parliament based on the model in Russia and Kazakhstan they aspire to.

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