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Losing Candidate In Kyrgyz Presidential Election Who Wins In Long Run

Toktaiym Umetalieva is the only woman in Kyrgyzstan to ever run for president.
Toktaiym Umetalieva is the only woman in Kyrgyzstan to ever run for president.

Out of the 11 candidates still running in Kyrgyzstan's presidential race, one stands out.

Toktaiym Umetalieva, 55, is not only the only female candidate competing in the election, she is also the only current candidate who has run for president twice before (2005 and 2009).

There is virtually no way Umetalieva can win the upcoming election. She received 1.14 percent of the vote in 2009 and only 0.6 percent in 2005.

Nonetheless, her presence in this election is reassuring since it provides a reminder that there is room in Kyrgyzstan for cooperation between the government and nongovernmental organizations.

Umetalieva is a civic activist who has never held a government post, but she has vast experience working with government institutions, including as a member of commissions that drafted new constitutions in 2002 and 2010.

Umetalieva is a university lecturer by training and taught general physics at Kyrgyzstan State University from 1984 to 1998.

But in 1997, she became the chairwoman of the Center for the Protection and Rights of Minors (Ay Danek) and shortly thereafter devoted her time to civil-society organizations. She was the head of the Association of Nongovernmental Organizations at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s.

In 2002, Umetalieva was named civilian adviser to the Interior Ministry and since then has worked as an adviser or consultant to several government bodies.

She is a former chess champion among university professors and her hobbies are arm wrestling and karate.

Umetalieva undoubtedly has more contributions to make to Kyrgyzstan, but already she has kept some important doors open in her country.

Not only has Umetalieva run for president three times now, she is the only woman in Kyrgyzstan to ever run for president.

Roza Otunbaeva became Kyrgyzstan's interim president in the aftermath of the 2010 revolution that ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiev. But Otunbaeva was appointed, not elected, to that post, which she held for only 19 months.

Otunbaeva and Umetalieva are examples that there are many well-educated, strong, women politicians and activists in Kyrgyzstan, probably more than in any of the other Central Asian countries currently.

Women like Toktaiym Umetalieva have made their presence known in Kyrgyzstan's political world since the early days of independence and likely will continue to do so for many years to come.

So Umetalieva won't win this election, but it can be seen as a victory for Kyrgyzstan that she is taking part as a candidate.

Ulan Eshmatov of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report. The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

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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