Bishkek, 28 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Independent foreign observers, like the OSCE, concluded on 28 February that the Kyrgyz elections fell short of many international standards.
Despite some positive aspects such as competitiveness and a calm and orderly election day, substantial shortcomings remain, concluded the International Election Observation Mission, in its preliminary findings. The mission consists of some 175 observers from 28 countries.
Kimmo Kiljunen, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, was critical of the elections and pointed out various shortcomings. "The election displayed some improvements, including the fact that voters were offered a real choice among contesting candidates in many constituencies," Kiljunen said. "However the competitive dynamic was undermined throughout the country by deregistration of candidates, interfering with independent media, vote buying, and a low level of confidence in electoral and judicial institutions on the part of candidates and voters."
Shortcomings during the election campaign affected the overall conduct of the elections. Interpretations of the Election Code were at times controversial and particularly restrictive and the deregistration of candidates was inconsistent, resulting in several protests by opposition supporters.
"...the competitive dynamic was undermined throughout the country by deregistration of candidates, interfering with independent media, vote buying, and a low level of confidence in electoral and judicial institutions on the part of candidates and voters."
Although the Central Election Commission took steps to increase transparency in its work and to organize meetings, voter lists were inaccurate and at times inaccessible for voters and observers. In spite of genuine competitiveness in many constituencies and the possibility for candidates to campaign on state-run media, there were infringements of the freedom of expression and assembly.
Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj, who heads the OSCE's long-term mission, urged Kyrgyz authorities to rectify some of the shortcomings in time for the second round of the elections. "We appeal [to the authorities] not to revoke the registration of candidates for unsubstantial reasons, refrain from interfering with the work of the mass media, not to make provocative statements accusing the opposition of connections to extremism," Kopaj said. "All these steps can be undertaken immediately and to a great extent they can improve the second round."
The CIS election observer delegation's conclusions differed from those of the OSCE. Asan Kozhakov, a deputy head of the CIS mission said the CIS observers noted that there were "minor" shortcomings of the electoral code. "In some polling stations, there were some violations of the electoral law," Kozhakov said. "There were inaccuracies in voters' lists. In some cases, ballot-boxes were not sealed properly. Polling stations did not provide information on candidates. However, these irregularities were not massive and didn't not prevent people from voting freely and didn't affect polls results."
The CIS delegations concluded that marking voters thumbnails with inedible ink slowed the voting process down.
Vasiliy Gavrilyuk, a Ukrainian parliament member, gave a separate briefing for journalists after the CIS delegates. His conclusions differed from those of the CIS. "There were no serious violations in polling stations," Gavrilyuk said. "Well, I am not speaking of those minor shortcomings you hear about before. But what was happening outside polling stations [breached the law]. Voters were taken to polling stations. We have concrete examples [proving this]. Election campaign continued. Voters told us about it. Members of electoral commissions documented those cases."
The Kyrgyz public organization Coalition "For Democracy and Civil Society" was very critical of the elections. "Our general conclusion is that the elections day was quiet," said Edil Baysalov, president of the coalition. "However, coalition 'For Democracy and Civil Society' cannot conclude that parliamentary elections were fair and just. We have taken into account the whole range of pre-election circumstances, particularly the last several days before the elections."
Baysalov praised innovations like using inedible ink and transparent ballot boxes. He said despite the fact that marking thumbnails of voters slowed down the process, the whole process was more progressive and better prevented election fraud.
The results of the first round are mixed. Only 31 candidates got more that 50 percent of votes. In 42 other constituencies, no candidate passed the 50 percent bar, so there will be a runoff election between the two leading voter-getters. In two of the constituencies, the vote was either postponed or deemed invalid.
Ten of the 31 new lawmakers are members of Alga, Kyrgyzstan (Forward, Kyrgyzstan), the party also known as Akayev's party.
Only two opposition members won seats -- Muratbek Mukashev of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party and Azimbek Beknazarov of the Asaba (Flag) party. Both are well-known critics of President Akayev. The remaining winners in the first round ran as independents, the majority of whom are generally pro-government.
Emil Aliyev, one of the leaders of the Ar-Namys party, who ran against Bermet Akayeva, President Akayev's daughter, for a seat in the parliament and got only 10 percent of the votes, told RFE/RL that the next step for the opposition is to win as many seats as possible in the second round: "The next step is to help [opposition] candidates in the districts where they will run in the second round in order to get few more seats."
Bermet Akayev, the daughter of President Askar Akayev and who is running in a university district, got only 45 percent, short of the 50 percent barrier needed to avoid a runoff set for March 13. In the second round her rival will be an independent journalist, Bolotbek Maripov, who got 25 percent of the votes on 27 February.
However, President Akayev's son, 29-year old Aydar, won in the first round with 79 percent of the votes in the Kemin District, the birthplace of President Akayev.