Over the weekend in Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary election took place, for the fate of 120 parliamentary seats, and indirectly on the adoption of a new constitution that weakens executive powers in favor of the legislature (Eurasianet/BBC/AlJ). The election loosely pitted nationalists of the law-and-order variety against social democrats, who favor a weakened presidency as a safeguard against the strongman tactics of Akayev and Bakiyev, and the type of violence that flared up earlier this year. Those who favor the old constitution have cited the violence as evidence of the need for strong leadership. Never mind that it may have been the last strongman who provoked it.
Voter turnout was clocked in at slightly over half by most counts (49-55%), with the highest turnout in Osh. Uzbeks, who make up 14% of the population, give or take (and were there long before the Soviets drew up the borders), were lacking on the ballot, according to some. The largest amount of votes went to the ethnocentric Ata-Zhurt party (“Fatherland”) at 9%, which did better in the south than the north, highlighting the divisions that still exist in the Osh area and elsewhere. While President Roza Otunbayeva had threatened to cancel the elections if the security situation deteriorated, she refrained from doing so, and two parties most loyal to her and the new constitution came in with 14% of the vote. The spoiler may be Felix Kulov with his 3rd place 7% – he is Russia’s number-one fan in the election, dislikes the new constitution, and supports a strong presidency. He may join forces with Ata-Zhurt, spelling trouble for the U.S. at Manas, the new constitution, and (somewhat ironically, given Kulov’s retrophilia) the Uzbek population of Kyrgyzstan.
Dire possible outcomes aside, the vote was over very serious issues and courses of action for the nation, and by most accounts, the voting was relatively clean. That, if nothing else, is this weekend’s good news.