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A campaign event for the Ata-Meken party in the village of Ton, over 300 kilometers from Bishkek, on September 8.

It has been an active campaign in the run-up to Kyrgyzstan’s October 4 parliamentary elections.

Some things have been familiar from previous elections, but there are some new developments -- and increasing concerns about the role money is playing in these elections.

On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion looking at the campaign and what we might be able to expect on -- and after -- election day.

This week’s guests were all speaking from Kyrgyzstan: Saniia Toktogazieva, a constitutional law expert; Gulnura Toralieva, a candidate from the Bir Bol party; and Medet Tiulegenov, assistant professor at the American University of Central Asia; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog.

Majlis Podcast: Rebranding And Gangster Candidates. It’s Kyrgyzstan’s Parliamentary Elections
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.

A group of protesters shout slogans urging people to vote against all parties during a rally in Bishkek ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for October 4.

There's barely a week until Kyrgyzstan conducts parliamentary elections, and although campaigning only officially started on September 4, there has been plenty of intrigue and scandal, in addition to some encouraging developments.

By The Numbers

The Central Election Commission released some interesting figures about the electorate on September 24.

There are 3,523,532 eligible voters in a population of around 6.3 million. That's an increase of 762,235 people, or nearly 28 percent, on the 2.76 million who were eligible in 2015.

Kaktus.media reported that the over-18 portion of the population has grown by just 9 percent since 2015.

The use of something called "Form No. 2" has been a source of controversy since before campaigning started. First used in 2011, it is a document to facilitate voting particularly among internal migrants by allowing them to vote in whichever polling district is most convenient, so long as they register there in advance.

There have been numerous accusations that parties and individual candidates are paying people to register and vote in specific districts.

There are some 482,000 Form No. 2 voters registered for the October 4 elections, 32,000 of whom are Kyrgyz nationals casting ballots outside the country.

That leaves 450,000 inside the country who are not voting in their district of residency.

Election commission head Nurjan Shayldabekova said around 10 percent of voters used Form No. 2 in the 2015 parliamentary elections. She did not explain how that figure climbed to nearly 13 percent for these elections.

Eighty-five of the 120 deputies in the current parliament are seeking reelection.

The two largest parties in parliament -- the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan and Respublika-Ata-Jurt -- have splintered, and the Onuguu-Progress party, which had the fourth-highest number of seats in parliament is not participating in these elections. So most of those 85 lawmakers are now spread out among 16 parties taking part in the October 4 vote.

There are some 1,900 candidates on party lists, but the actual figure has decreased as some chose to pull out and a few others were disqualified.

The Political Fight

The election commission disqualified two candidates on September 24 for their roles in a large brawl between supporters of two different political parties.

Shukurullo Fayzullaev of the Birimdik party and Ilhom Mananov of the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party were both barred from further participation in connection with a fight that erupted in the Aravan district of the southern Osh Province during a campaign event organized by Mekenim Kyrgyzstan on September 20.

Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan are both seen as pro-government parties. The fight allegedly started when a member of Mekenim Kyrgyzstan made disparaging comments about a Birimdik candidate.

Twelve people were hospitalized. So far, four people have been detained.

"We should first think about the safety of citizens," election commission member Tynchtyk Shaynazarov said after the disqualifications were announced. "It's a good thing no one was killed. Imagine what a disgrace it would be in front of the entire world if in Kyrgyzstan people killed each other over 100 votes."

There was another incident in the village of Alysh, in Naryn Province, on September 21 when 25-year-old Altynbek Asekov, a campaigner for the Respublika party, was reportedly attacked by members of the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party.

Tynchtykbek Altymyshev, a candidate from the Respublika party, posted a photo on his Facebook page of Asekov after the incident.

There are several versions of what led to the beating, and police have charged Mekenim Kyrgyzstan supporters with hooliganism.

On September 21, a Mekenim Kyrgyzstan candidate, a former speaker of parliament who was subsequently convicted of abuse of office, was meeting with voters in the Alai district of Osh Province when someone in the crowd asked Akhmatbek Keldibekov what he had done that would qualify him to be a deputy.

Kyrgyz politician Akhmatbek Keldibekov (file photo)
Kyrgyz politician Akhmatbek Keldibekov (file photo)

The conversation reportedly became testy when the topic of the Ata-Meken party and its leader, Omurbek Tekebaev, who was a key figure in orchestrating Keldibekov's removal as speaker of parliament in 2011, came up.

"Don't get carried away, boy, don't make me mad," Keldibekov warned, adding, "I've beaten the crap out of people like you."

Mekenim Kyrgyzstan is likely to win seats in parliament, but it's anyone's guess as to what sort of coalition they might join.

Where Did Aybek Osmonov Go?

Aybek Osmonov and his brother Nurbek were cofounders of the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, but Aybek left the party and formed the Yyman Nuru (Ray of Faith) party in anticipation of these elections.

But by August 14, the party had said it was under pressure. It didn't identify the source of that pressure, and Yyman member Nuru Mikhail Khalitov said at the time that any members "who have something to lose...can leave the party."

Aybek Osmonov was first to go on August 18, without citing a reason.

On September 6, a fire broke out at the Kyrgyztekstil textile plant in Osh, burning it to the ground. The plant belonged to Kaganat Invest, which is owned by Nurbek Osmonov.

On September 23, there were reports that Aybek had fled Kyrgyzstan amid purported pressure from the Matraimov family.

Raimbek Matraimov is a former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Customs Service who featured prominently in a detailed report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Kyrgyzstan's independent news outlet Kloop.kg, and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk.

He is also widely rumored to be a supporter of the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, for whom his brother Iskender is a candidate.

Later on September 23, Aybek Osmonov posted on Facebook that he was in Bishkek and included a video of himself in the city center. He said he had briefly left Kyrgyzstan but never had any intention of leaving the country permanently.

He also said he was sitting out these elections but that another brother, Janarbek Alymov, was running as a candidate from the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party.

Let's Talk About Elections

Television debates have been one of the bright spots in the campaign.

Public broadcaster KTRK has already carried a debate among younger candidates and on September 25 was scheduled to have another among women candidates.

Party leaders will engage in their own debate on September 27.

Other privately owned television stations have also carried extensive discussions about the upcoming elections involving journalists, bloggers, and activists.

The viewership for those programs is reportedly high, and many of them have also been posted on Facebook.

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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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