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On Kyrgyzstan's Campaign Trail: The Political Battle On The Hillsides

  • Bruce Pannier

The rock arrangers for the Butun Kyrgyzstan Emgek party give a whole new definition to party support.

The rock arrangers for the Butun Kyrgyzstan Emgek party give a whole new definition to party support.

Advertising is part of political campaigns. There are a variety of ways to advertise: television, radio, billboards, posters, banners, leaflets, and so on. Kyrgyzstan is conducting parliamentary elections on October 4, and all these means of party promotion are present. But in southern Kyrgyzstan, political parties are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to attract voters' attention.

And when I say "no stone unturned," I mean it literally.

The road between Osh and Batken is some 220 kilometers long. Leaving Osh and heading south for 100 kilometers or so, the road runs through the hills, which at this time of year are dry and yellow.

Upon some of these hills, supporters of various political parties have arranged white stones to spell out the names of their parties.

The hills are usually hundreds of meters away from the road, so for anyone to see these advertisements the letters must be huge and placed high up on the hillside.

It looks like a lot of work, for supporters of some parties more than for others.

The Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan is simply using SDPK in its advertising. On the hillsides, that's what is written: SDPK. There's also the Bir Bol (Stay United) party, a bit tougher on those arranging stones:

However, for the rock arrangers from the Butun Kyrgyzstan Emgek party or the Respublika-Ata-Jurt party, well, I think we have to recognize a new definition of party support:

To be fair, SDPK and Bir Bol seem to make their letters thicker. I don't know if that's because there's a quota for stones that must be used or simply out of a sense of guilt that supporters/rock arrangers of some other parties are responsible for forming three times the number of letters:

This technique is certainly not new for Central Asia. Often these stone arrangements on hillsides mark the entry to towns and villages. I remember in Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, I used to see "Cotton Our White Gold" written on hillsides.

So it is an old way of grabbing attention in Central Asia. But in remote areas between settlements, and in a country with few billboards along the roads in such places, the political parties are taking advantage of this eco-friendly means of promoting themselves.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change. Content will draw on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad. The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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