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The Controversy Of Kyrgyzstan's Vote Count

In Kyrgyzstan, the threshold for a party to enter parliament is 5 percent -- of eligible voters.
In Kyrgyzstan, the threshold for a party to enter parliament is 5 percent -- of eligible voters.
Kyrgyzstan just finished holding what, arguably, was the most free and fair campaign and elections for parliament in Central Asia's history. But the October 10 poll was almost immediately disputed by one of the 29 parties running in those elections -- Butun Kyrgyzstan (literally "Entire Kyrgyzstan," but could be translated "One" or "United" Kyrgyzstan).

Butun Kyrgyzstan came up just short of receiving enough votes to get seats in parliament. Or did it?

The party got 4.84 percent of the "vote", just 0.16 short of crossing the mandatory 5 percent threshold. The oddity here is that the result was calculated not from the actual vote count, but from the number of eligible voters.

Of course, not all of Kyrgyzstan's eligible voters cast ballots. The Central Election Commission put voter turnout at around 57 percent but nevertheless calculated the 5 percent barrier based on 100 percent voter turnout.

Butun Kyrgyzstan essentially failed to reach the mark because the commission added 200,000 people to the total number of eligible voters. Had the commission's original estimate of 2.8 million eligible voters held, then Butun Kyrgyzstan would have made it into parliament. But on election day, the number of eligible voters swelled to 3 million.

Butun Kyrgyzstan is vowing to take the case to court and in the meantime party supporters have been demonstrating in Kyrgyzstan's second city, Osh, since preliminary results were released on October 11. Others from the 24 parties that failed to win seats are joining Butun Kyrgyzstan's call for some clarity on the tallying process.

The discrepancy casts an unwelcome shadow over what were otherwise transparent and fair elections. It also complicates the already complex process of forming a coalition in parliament from among the five parties that were announced as winning seats.

At the moment the party that won the most seats, Ata-Jurt, seems destined to be the minority opposition in parliament. As coalition talks go on, Ata-Jurt is, not surprisingly, supporting Butun Kyrgyzstan's objections to the Central Election Commission, hoping if this sixth party gets seats it would join with Ata-Jurt, which would then head the coalition government.

And wait, there's (possibly) more...because recalculating the final percentages based on 57 percent turnout could mean more parties than just Butun Kyrgyzstan might gain seats.

-- Bruce Pannier