A Brief Survey of Kyrgyz Election Posters

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by Joshua Foust on 10/13/2011 · 2 comments

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — It’s election season in Kyrgyzstan, and that means there are lots of posters up all over the place for the twenty or so Presidential hopefuls angling for votes on October 30. So why not an unscientific survey of the election posters I’ve managed to stumble across whilst walking around downtown Bishkek?

Walking down Chuy Prospekt probably gives the best overview of who the major players are. Probably the most prominent, and most likely to succeed Roza Otunbayeva as President, is current Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev. Unlike most of the other candidates, his posters don’t normally have his face, but a very Obama-esque red-white-and-blue logo formed from the first letter of his last name.

On my drive from Manas Airport, an enormous banner of Atambaev, his arms open in friendship, welcomed me to Bishkek. Apparently that was a rarity: most of Atambaev’s posters don’t feature his face, just that “A” in trendy election colors.

A slightly longer shot is Interior Minister Kubatbek Baibolov. He hails from Jalal-Abad, and has a Twitter feed, but despite a number of cool green face posters around Bishkek, people don’t seem to pay him much mind.

Representing the Dignity, or Ar Namys Party, is Anarbek Kalmatov. Ar Namys was originally founded by Felix Kulov in 2000 (Kulov briefly served as former President Bakiyev’s Prime Minister before parliamentary opposition forced his ouster). Much like Baibolov, Kalmatov doesn’t seem to register much emotion with people: they just sort of shrug.

Then there are a few scattered other candidates that probably won’t do much. One of them is Omurbek Suvanaliyev, the former governor of Naryn Oblast. Though he champions himself as an uncompromising foe of mafia bosses, he has barely made a ripple in the race.

I have not yet seen around town any posters for the most likely number two contender to the Presidency, Adakhan Madumarov. His chances could be a bit tenuous because of his previous service under President Bakiyev, but he has amassed a large campaign fund. Madumarov is representing the Butun, or United Kyrgyzstan party, which could mobilize an interesting number of voters.

Speaking with some local Kyrgyz and expats, I get the sense that this election season is very different from what it was last year. Perhaps the horrors of the ethnic pograms in Osh, and the pain annoyance of Otunbayeva’s rise to temporary power, have tempered people’s tempers a bit. But at least with among the more elite Kyrgyz, there is also a pervasive feeling of political apathy and crisis fatigue: they just want their country to be normal.

It’s possible that desire could affect the outcome of the elections if it’s widespread. But I have no idea if it really is or not.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Amira October 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I see Atambaev’s face on my side of town more often than you have. He watches over us from several huge billboards. We’ve also gotten literature at our apartment from a few candidates (Atambaev, Baibolov, and Suvanaliyev) and I’ve seen a few signs for Adakhan Madumarov, but not as many as for Baibolov or Atambaev. I haven’t seen any hint of most of the over candidates though, despite my watching for them.

The Tokmok bazaar has a large billboard of Atambaev at the entrance (the version with his face, not the symbol). There’s a smaller billboard for Kalmatov there too.

EJT October 14, 2011 at 8:17 am

Yeah, last week in Bishkek I saw plenty of Atambaev’s face. Perhaps Mr. Foust just arrived in town and hasn’t gotten the lay of the land yet . . .

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