Kyrgyzstan: Round Two

by Nathan Hamm on 3/13/2005 · 3 comments

Kyrgyzstan voted today in the second round – the runoff round – of its parliamentary election. Voting was postponed in four districts because of protests and protesters are continuing to cause headaches for the government, especially in Jalalabad, Naryn, and Osh.

Be sure to visit Thinking-East.Net for additional news and analysis. (Don’t miss the anti-Akayev graffiti.)


The most disturbing development in the days immediately preceding the second round of the election is buried in this story about the protesters. According to his spokesman, Akayev might just be forced to remain in office when his term expires as a result of the protests:

[presidential spokesperson] Abdil Seghizbayev announced on Friday (March 11) that the harsh attitude of the opposition might also cause trouble for the presidential elections that will be held on October 30. “The opposition might force the president to extend his office in order to guarantee his authority,” said Seghizbayev and asked, “Do they want the president to be reappointed for another five year term?”

Later comes the government’s line for this round:

Suggesting that defeated candidates in the first round were trying to confuse the country by disrespecting the preference of the public, Akayev warned the opposition “was using the public for their own interests”.

Good thing they’re putting that right out there, or how else RIA Novosti know how to cover the preparations for round two?

The campaign that started March 3 took place against a background of unending rallies organized by supporters of those candidates who lost. A crowd of people sympathizing with the ex-candidates in the Jalal-Abad region seized and still controls the building of the regional administration, demanding the cancellation of the first round’s results. In the Naryn region, the voters blocked the strategic highway that links Kyrgyzstan and China. Rallies hinder normal life in a number of cities of the Osh and Issyk-Kul regions.

It, of course, continues in such fashion. At least the story is filed under “AGITPROP” among other things.

RIA‘s other reporter on the story is doing a similarly bang-up job. Well, to be fair, Goncharov’s not as horrible as Yulia Orlova, but he’s sticking to his “no reason to revolt” and “opposition sentiments are entirely manufactured” line.

In my last update, I mentioned that the Paris Club cut and restructured Kyrgyzstan’s debt. While it’s great news, the timing is less than optimal because of its propaganda value to the government.

“The generosity of the Paris Club is caused by Kyrgyzstan’s positive image on the international scene, stable economic growth, strict financial discipline and balanced foreign and domestic policy,” he stressed.

“It is symbolic that the Paris Club made this decision during the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan. The election campaign and the first round proved our adherence to the highest democratic principles. The signal from Paris calls on us to observe these principles during the second round,” the head of state noted.

Which is another way of telling Akayev’s opponents that they have no reason to complain and that the world is behind him. Kyrgyzstan would surely deserve this under any objective measure, but the timing is atrocious.

As for the opposition, RFE/RL reports that some protesters are marching on Bishkek, though it appears to be less impressive than the headline would suggest. What is positive though is the news that the Osh governor is admitting that there were problems with the vote. Though the admission could just be a way to get protesters to go home, a failure to act on the admission only adds fuel to the fire.

Finally, EurasiaNet has a superb pre-election article noting that Akayev, regardless of how big of a majority he has in parliament, has painted himself into a corner, and not just with the opposition.

Under the present circumstances, several political observers said, Akayev will likely find it difficult to remain in power – regardless of the March 13 results.

For example, Alexander Kynev, a Russian political scientist, maintained that Akayev’s cost of ensuring his desired legislative election outcome is prohibitive, primarily because the process alienated many within the president’s administration. The president has ignored the interests of a considerable segment of Kyrgyzstan’s political establishment by promoting the candidacies of close friends and relatives, Kynev suggested.

“The political aspirations of Mairam [Akayev’s wife] and his children … actually pushes towards the opposition many those [members of the elite] who had previously been absolutely loyal to Akayev’s clan,” Kynev said. “Powerful people with plentiful resources may, in the near future, feel compelled to enter into an alliance with the opposition. If this occurs, the opposition’s opportunities [to come to power] will grow.”

To give him his due, Akayev is no Karimov or Turkmenbashi. He’s arguably a better guy than Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev. But, in the lead-up to the election, he sounded absolutely off his rocker. Were he willing to gracefully exit the stage and not so heavy-handedly guarantee a leading role for his family in Kyrgyz politics, he’d likely be able to have and eat at least some of his cake.

The Vote

Turnout appears to be down in this round.

Yulia Orlova is back to pass on the CIS observers’ positive assessment of the election.

The New York Times sees things a little differently.

In Chardak, a hardscrabble village perched over the roaring Red River in the south of the country, Roma Gurushbekov, a 55-year-old teacher, said supporters of one businessman with strong government support, were slipping 500 soms – about $12 – to anyone who agreed to vote for him.

The opposition too notes significant problems with the vote. They haven’t detailed them yet, but it’s worth mentioning that the revolution has a new name.

“It turned out that there are some peculiarities. The foreigners have been asking us: ‘What kind of revolution might there be in Kyrgyzstan? Will it be a rose or tulip one?’ Now we say: ‘This is the yurt revolution.’ People are setting up yurts — [the traditional felt tents of nomads] — in different parts [of the country.] I think this shows that people are very ready and active in regions of Kyrgyzstan these days,” Otunbaeva said.

There are few stories on the outcome of the vote, so check out the AP’s coverage for now. They’re not the greatest, but they beat the competition.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Laurence March 14, 2005 at 8:08 am

Hi Nathan, Your coverage of Kyrgyzstan reminds me that, when I was living in Uzbekistan, America considered Kyrgyzstan the model Central Asian country, and Akayev the model Central Asian president. US press accounts of Akayev were usually favorable. Kyrgyzstan got lots of US and international aid money. It was a member of the WTO. It was considered relatively free and democratic.

Now, suddenly, the US is complaining, Kyrgyzstan is considered a dictatorship, and Akayev has been demonized.

How quickly views change…

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