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Kyrgyzstan Holds Elections Once Again Amid Concerns Of Voter Burnout 

A man rides a horse past campaign posters for candidates in Kyrgyzstan's upcoming parliamentary elections in the village of Arashan, some 25 kilometers south of the capital, Bishkek.
A man rides a horse past campaign posters for candidates in Kyrgyzstan's upcoming parliamentary elections in the village of Arashan, some 25 kilometers south of the capital, Bishkek.

Voters in Kyrgyzstan return to the polling stations on November 28 for the fourth time in less than 14 months, this time to vote for a new parliament.

The elections are a repeat of the failed parliamentary vote held on October 4, 2020, that was quickly annulled by the Central Election Committee (BShK) amid protests over campaign violations and unfair voting practices on election day.

A referendum held in April 2021 changed the constitution and the structure of Kyrgyzstan’s unicameral parliament.

The outgoing parliament has 120 deputies, but the new chamber will have only 90.

The system for electing new deputies has also changed, with 54 deputies being chosen from party lists and the remaining seats to be decided in single-mandate districts that were drawn up in September so that each one has some 80,000 eligible voters. Some districts have 17 candidates and one district -- Uzgen voting district no. 12 -- has one candidate.

That requires voters to cast two separate ballots for candidates.

Voters will choose one of the candidates running in their district as well as one of the 21 different parties that are on the ballot.

The party list ballot is also more involved than usual as voters will select a party and also choose a particular candidate from that party by putting a mark in one of the 54 boxes on the right side of the ballot.

Should a voter mark the box for a party but fail to tick a box for a specific candidate, that vote goes to the first name on the party’s list.

Of the 21 parties competing in these elections, only five appeared on last year’s ballot: Ata-Meken (Fatherland), Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan, Yyman Nuru (Ray of Faith), the Social-Democrats, and Ordo (the Center).

The Kyrgyzstan party, which had won seats in parliament in the 2010, 2015, and 2020 parliamentary elections (where it was one of the three winning parties), is not compete in these elections.

A Close Friend Of The President

Kamchybek Tashiev (left) at a Security Council meeting with President Sadyr Japarov on November 26.
Kamchybek Tashiev (left) at a Security Council meeting with President Sadyr Japarov on November 26.

Kamchybek Tashiev, who is currently the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security (UKMK) and a close friend of President Sadyr Japarov, once headed the Ata-Jurt (also Fatherland) party (known now as Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan).

Another party some view as pro-presidential is the Yntymak (Harmony) party, which includes parliament speaker Talant Mamytov.

Talant Mamytov (file photo)
Talant Mamytov (file photo)

Mamytov is also a close friend of Japarov and Tashiev. The three were convicted together and imprisoned in 2013 for trying the overthrow the Kyrgyz government.

The Reforms party was an interesting newcomer in the October 2020 elections with the majority of its members being young and many also new to the Kyrgyz political scene.

They joined with Ata-Meken for these elections, and Reforms leader Klara Sooronkulova is among the first names on the party’s list of candidates. The Turan, Ak Kalpak (White Hat), and Egemen (Sovereign) Kyrgyzstan parties, and the Kanykey movement have also merged with Ata-Meken.

Omurbek Tekebaev (file photo)
Omurbek Tekebaev (file photo)

Only two parties, Ata-Meken (leader Omurbek Tekebaev) and Butun Kyrgyzstan (leader Adahan Madumarov) can be considered openly opposed to the current authorities. They have been strongly criticizing Japarov's policies during the campaign. All of the other parties have some relation to or connection with the government.

Adahan Madumarov (file photo)
Adahan Madumarov (file photo)

Other parties participating in the November elections have new names but are also filled with the members of parties that competed in the October 2020 elections but are not running this time.

Interesting Races

There are some very interesting races in single-mandate districts.

Current deputy Dastan Bekeshev is running in district no. 28 in Bishkek. Bekeshev has been something of the voice of morality in parliament and he has encountered some difficulties campaigning.

Dastan Bekeshev (file photo)
Dastan Bekeshev (file photo)

Since the start of November, Bekeshev has been called for questioning by the UKMK about schoolchildren taking part in his election campaign and by the military prosecutor’s office as a witness in the investigation into the Kumtor gold mine scandal.

The campaign slogan for Bekeshev -- who is legally blind -- is “I see the truth.”

Iskender Matraimov is also currently in parliament. He is the brother of alleged criminal figure Raimbek Matraimov.

Iskender Matraimov (file photo)
Iskender Matraimov (file photo)

Iskender Matraimov is running in voting district no. 9 in southern Kyrgyzstan’s Kara-Suu district, the same district where his brother Tilek was chief from 2012 to 2020.

Aybek Osmonov, the founder of three political parties -- Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, Yyman Nuru, and Bizdin Kyrgyzstan -- is running in district no. 7 in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Seidbek Atambaev, the son of imprisoned former President Almazbek Atambaev, is running in district no. 25 in Bishkek.

Attorney Nurbek Toktakunov had been one of the most vocal critics of the new constitution and argued before this year’s presidential election that Japarov should be barred from competing due to his previous conviction for attempting to overthrow the government. Toktakunov is running in district no. 27 in Bishkek.

Shaiyrbek Tashiev, the brother of UKMK chief Kamchybek Tashiev, is running for a seat in district no. 14 in the southern Jalal-Abad Province because, as he said, the people wanted him to do so.

Elmurza Satybaldiev -- who was prosecutor-general when Kurmanbek Bakiev was president and was convicted of involvement in the violence of April as 2010 Bakiev was ousted from power -- is competing in district no. 12 in the Uzgen district. A close ally of the ruling officials, he is assured of winning a seat as he is the only candidate running after all three of his competitors suspiciously dropped out.

Eligible voters will cast their ballots at one of 2,435 polling stations inside Kyrgyzstan or at one of 59 polling stations in 29 countries. Twenty of those are in Russia due to the great number of Kyrgyz migrant laborers working there.

Eligible Voters

Curiously, there are two different figures for the number of eligible voters. According to a preliminary list of voters from the BShK, there are 3,703,420 people registered to vote for parties, and 3,619,292 registered to vote in single-mandate districts.

That is apparently because some migrant laborers cannot vote for candidates in single-mandate districts, only for candidates on party lists.

One of the biggest questions now is how many people will actually cast ballots, as there seems to be some turnout burnout in Kyrgyzstan.

Voter turnout for the October 2020 parliamentary elections was some 56.5 percent.

The turnout for the presidential election and vote on whether the country should have a parliamentary or presidential system on January 10, 2021, was just over 39 percent, and the turnout for the April 11 referendum on a new constitution was less than 37 percent.

Some 730 international observers, 288 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, are accredited to monitor the elections.

Polls in Kyrgyzstan open at 8 am and close at 8 pm.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, contributed to this report.

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 the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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