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Qishloq Ovozi

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

On October 11, Tajikistan will have a presidential election in which incumbent Emomali Rahmon is assured of winning another seven-year term in office.

Rahmon has been in power in Tajikistan since late 1992, making him currently the longest serving head of state in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

His family has profited greatly and now seems to have financial interests in all of Tajikistan’s major industries.

There was talk Rahmon might step down and allow his eldest son, Rustam Emomali, to run for president, but in the end -- and with only a few weeks until this election -- Rahmon was nominated to run again for a fifth term in office.

On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderates a discussion looking at Rahmon’s years in power and what can be expected on election day and in the months and years after.

This week’s guests are: from Exeter University in the U.K., professor of international studies, John Heathershaw, the author of numerous works on Central Asia and codirector of the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) project; from Germany and originally from Tajikistan, independent journalist and activist Humayra Bakhtiyor; from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, editor and television presenter Tohir Safarov; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog.

Majlis Podcast: Tajik President Looks To Extend His Rule To 35 Years
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.

A campaign poster in the village of Arashan, 25 kilometers from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Voters in Kyrgyzstan -- the only democracy in Central Asia -- will go to the polls on October 4 to vote in parliamentary elections.

Following the revolution in 2010 that ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the country’s constitution was rewritten, transforming the country from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government.

Kyrgyzstan has a unicameral parliament with 120 seats, of which 30 percent are supposed to be filled by women.

According to the party lists presented to the Central Election Commission on August 24, there were 1,209 candidates (though some have dropped out and others were disqualified since then) from 16 parties competing.

All deputies are elected through party lists and a party must receive at least 7 percent of the overall vote to make it into parliament. The most seats one party can win in the elections is 65.

Here is a snapshot of all 16 parties:

The (Broadly) Pro-Government Parties

  • The Birimdik (Unity) party was founded in 2020. The party’s leader is Marat Amankulov, who recently was at the center of a scandal over his comments about Kyrgyzstan becoming part of Russia. Among its candidates are President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s younger brother, Asylbek; Labor Minister Ulukbek Kochkorov; Deputy Labor Minister Aliza Soltonbekova; and deputy parliament speaker Aida Kasymalieva (a former journalist for RFE/RL)

  • The Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland Kyrgyzstan) party was founded after the parliamentary elections in 2015. In August, the Ata-Jurt party, which currently has seats in parliament as part of the Respublika/Ata-Jurt union, merged into Mekenim Kyrgyzstan. Mekenim Kyrgyzstan is believed to be receiving financial support from Raimbek Matraimov, a former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan’s Customs Service who is alleged to have used that position to make hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth. Among the party’s candidates are Matraimov’s brother and current parliament deputy Iskender Matraimov, former Bishkek Deputy Mayor Mirlan Amanturov, and deputy speaker of parliament Mirlan Bakirov. A September 10 report from kloop.kg noted 221 of the 1,209 candidates on party lists have prior convictions and among those, Mekenim Kyrgyzstan had the most: 29.
The leader of the Kyrgyzstan political party, Kanat Isaev
The leader of the Kyrgyzstan political party, Kanat Isaev
  • The Kyrgyzstan party was founded in 2015 and won 18 seats in parliamentary elections that year. The party’s leader is Kanat Isaev. In the 2015 elections, the Kyrgyzstan party was seen as a stalking horse for the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, but with the recent disintegration of that party, Kyrgyzstan has emerged as the veteran pro-government party.

  • The Ordo (The Center) party was founded in 2019. The party’s leader is Mirlan Miyarov. Ordo in comprised mainly of young people. The Kabar media outlet said of Ordo party’s candidates: "there are practically no publicly known personalities on its party list."

The Opposition Parties

  • The Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party was founded in 2010. It competed in the 2015 parliamentary elections but failed to win any seats. Among its candidates are party leader Adakhan Madumarov, former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan’s Security Council Omurbek Suvanaliev, the former Communist Party head Iskhak Masaliev, and former Jalal-Abad Governor Bektur Asanov.
Omurbek Babanov founded the Respublika party in 2010.
Omurbek Babanov founded the Respublika party in 2010.
  • The Respublika party was founded in 2010 by businessman Omurbek Babanov, who later served as prime minister. Babanov made an unsuccessful run for president in 2017 and fled the country due to dubious charges against him. He returned after vowing to leave politics, though he has released campaign advertisements for Respublika in the run-up to elections. The party’s leader is Mirlan Jeenchorov.

  • The Meken Yntymagy (Homeland Security) party was founded in 2010. The party is led by Temirbek Asanbekov, who ran for president in the 2011 election. Meken Yntymagy participated in the 2010 and 2015 parliamentary elections, failing to win any seats in those elections. On the party’s list of candidates, under the category of occupation, the third, fourth, and fifth candidates (Sharali Tabyldiev, Jaynagul Nurmambetova, and Azamat Aytbekov, respectively) are listed as “unemployed,” as are nine other candidates in the top 20.

  • The Yyman Nuru (Ray of Faith) party was founded in 2020 by Aybek Osmonov, but he stepped down as party leader and Nurjigit Kadyrbekov, a young religious leader who studied in the United States and Japan, took over as Yyman Nuru’s head going into the elections.
Maksat Mamytkanov is the leader of the Chong Kazat party.
Maksat Mamytkanov is the leader of the Chong Kazat party.
  • The Chong Kazat (Great Crusade) party was founded in 2012. The current leader is Maksat Mamytkanov, a former member of Kyrgyzstan’s State Security Committee. Chong Kazat is seen as a nationalist party.

  • The Mekenchil (Patriotic) party was founded in 2010. The party’s leader is Sadyr Japarov, but he is currently in prison for his role in fomenting unrest in the northeastern town of Karakol in October 2013. The current leader is Kamchyek Tashiev, the former leader of Ata-Jurt.

  • The Party of Afghan War Veterans and Participants in Local Conflicts was founded in 1994. The party’s leader is Akbokon Tashtanbekov. The party won two seats in the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections.

  • The Zamandash (Contemporary) party was founded in 2007. The party’s current leader is Jenish Moldokmatov. The party was originally created to support Kyrgyz migrant laborers in Russia. Among Zamandash’s candidates are former Deputy Interior Minister Melis Turganbayev and Almurza Satybalidiev, a former prosecutor-general, later adviser to former President Kurmanbek Bakiev. Satybalidiev was convicted for the deaths of protesters in the 2010 revolution but was released in 2016.
Omurbek Tekebaev is the leader of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party.
Omurbek Tekebaev is the leader of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party.
  • The Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party was founded in 1992. The party’s leader is Omurbek Tekebaev, a former parliamentary leader and veteran opposition politician. Tekebaev will not participate as a candidate in these elections, however. The top spot on the party’s list was given to young politician Janar Akaev, a former presidential press secretary and current parliament deputy (and former RFE/RL employee).

  • The Reforms party was founded in 2020. The party is led by a former judge in the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, Klara Soronkulova, but most party members are young activists and academics. Reforms’ candidates have the second lowest average age (38). Reforms has relied on crowdfunding for much of its finances, including the 5 million soms (about $63,000) needed to register for the elections.

  • The Bir Bol (Stay Together) party was founded in 2010. The party’s leader is Altynbek Sulaymanov. It is one of the three parties competing that have seats in the current parliament (12), but prior to the party congress in August the party restocked itself with young members and its candidates for the 2020 elections have the lowest average age (37).

  • The Social Democrats of Kyrgyzstan party was founded in 2020. It is what is left of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), which splintered. Former President Almazbek Atambaev’s son, Seyitbek, is leading the party and is a top candidate on the party’s list along with other former SDPK members.

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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.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws 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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