It was clear it couldn't last for long, but now it's official: Kyrgyzstan's Respublika-Ata-Jurt party is splitting up.
Respublika and Ata-Jurt joined forces in October 2014, with an eye on boosting their chances in the country's parliamentary elections a year later. But while they succeeded to some extent in that goal, the announced dissolution of the parties' merger just weeks before local elections, and about a year before the presidential poll, has created a confusing situation.
The Respublika party, led by Omurbek Babanov, and the Ata-Jurt party, led by Kamchybek Tashiev, won 28 seats in the 120-seat parliament in 2015, coming in second after the Social Democratic Party, once President Almazbek Atambaev's party, which won 38 seats.
But Tashiev nevertheless decided to break up the "tandem" the two formed, telling RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on November 17, that he had met with Babanov to discuss Ata-Jurt's withdrawal. Tashiev said he and Babanov reached agreement "without any scandals or arguments."
Tashiev explained that the decision meant that after the elections to local councils scheduled for December 11, the same day Kyrgyzstan will conduct a national referendum on amendments to the constitution, "each party will act under its own party name."
Tashiev clarified, however, that for this election day only Ata-Jurt would be running separately, while Babanov would use Respublika-Ata-Jurt and then revert to simply Respublika in the future.
This could be a bit confusing for voters on December 11.
Babanov, one of the richest men in Kyrgyzstan, founded Respublika in June 2010, just after former President Kurmanbek Bakiev was ousted from power by protesters. Respublika was seen as an ethnically inclusive party led by the sophisticated businessman Babanov.
Tashiev, a boxer who served in the Soviet military and later turned to politics, became one of the leaders of the Ata-Jurt party (not to be confused with the Ata-Jurt movement of the mid-2000s), in 2006. Tashiev has been accused of being a nationalist and a supporter of Bakiev, under whom he served as emergency-situations minister from 2007 to 2009, though he denies his party excludes other ethnic groups or that he favored Bakiev's return to power. Tashiev was excluded from the Respublika-Ata-Jurt party list in the 2015 elections after he was accused of assaulting a member of the Onuguu-Progress party.
Altynai Omurbekova of the Respublika party, also deputy speaker of parliament, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service she was aware of the split. "As far as I know, Kamchybek Tashiev met with Omurbek Toktogulovich [Babanov] and said that from now on he [Tashiev] intends to continue in a new tandem with [Adakhan] Madumarov and [Akhmatbek] Keldibekov."
Omurbekova added, however, that "the Respublika-Ata-Jurt faction [in parliament] will work until the end of the convocation." That would mean that despite the split in the party, the two parties would act as one party in parliament until 2020 when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled.
This will present a challenge to voters on December 11 when elections to local councils are held. Knowing the two parties are about to act independently, even as they work as one for the time being in parliament, what does casting a ballot for Respublika-Ata-Jurt mean?
Respublika-Ata-Jurt has not been part of the ruling coalition in parliament since the 2010 elections.* Despite pledges of unity in parliament until 2020, there is the possibility the two parties might pursue their own, different agendas in parliament, a possibility made all the more likely considering presidential elections are set for late 2017 and Babanov, and possibly Tashiev or another member of Ata-Jurt, could be candidates.
*This article has been corrected to show that Respublika-Ata-Jurt was not in the coalition that collapsed in October.