News / Asia

Krygyzstan Votes for Parliamentary Democracy

A supporter of former Kyrgyz PM and leader of the Ar-Namys party Felix Kulov poses for photographers during an election campaign rally in Baytik, south of Bishkek, 08 Oct 2010
A supporter of former Kyrgyz PM and leader of the Ar-Namys party Felix Kulov poses for photographers during an election campaign rally in Baytik, south of Bishkek, 08 Oct 2010
James Brooke

In Kyrgyzstan, people vote Sunday in the kind of election that is rare in the post-Soviet space. No one knows who is going to win.

With rock concerts in the rain and loudspeaker vans roaming the streets, Kyrgyzstan's 29 parties wrapped up their campaigns Friday night for what is to be Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy. Edil Basailov, a candidate, said something else that is rare here.

"This is the first time in Kyrgyzstan or in entire Central Asian region that we don't know who is going to win," he said.

After the collapse of Soviet rule almost two decades ago, Central Asia's five republics all took the path of one-man rule, supported by what human rights groups call rigged elections.

Dmitry Medvedev, president of Russia, the former colonial power here, predicts that Kyrgyzstan's multiparty experiment will be a "catastrophe."

In Moscow, Mr. Medvedev posed recently for a portrait with Felix Kulov, leader of Ar-Namys, or Honor. This party promises to hold a referendum on returning Kyrgyzstan to the Presidential system. The Kremlin's photo endorsement graces a massive billboard on a main shopping avenue here.

US President Barack Obama took a different tack, meeting two weeks ago in New York with Rosa Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan's interim president. American aid has been spent on establishing a campaign code of ethics for the rival parties and to raise the transparency of voting and vote counting on election day.

Kyrgyzstan is the only nation in the world with both an American military base - and a Russian military base. Some political analysts say there are also pro-American parties and pro-Russian parties fighting over the nation's 2 million voters.

Shirin Aitmatova, a candidate of the Ata Meken, or Fatherland, party, sees the difference as generational. "These claims that one political party is pro-American and another political party is pro-Russian is actually not that true. Because right now there is an ideological strife between people who have more western values, and people who have old school Soviet values," she said.

This year, the United States is extending $211 million in aid to Kyrgyzstan, an amount only topped in the former Soviet Union by Georgia," said Meken.  "American interest is high because the United States uses a section of Bishkek's international airport as the main transit center for NATO troops going in and out of Afghanistan, a two hour flight from here."

Last year, Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted to close the base. Washington only saved the base by quadrupling the annual rent. Since then, the government that signed the lease was overthrown in a street revolt. Then, in June, fighting killed hundreds of ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan. In Osh, the epicenter of the ethnic violence, parties only distribute campaign materials in Kyrgyz, turning a cold shoulder to Uzbek voters.

Sergei Masaulov, a former advisor to the ousted president, warns that regionalism - Kyrgystan's deep north-south divide - will be the largest threat facing winning parties who try to form a coalition this fall.

With 29 parties competing Sunday, only five or six will win enough votes - about 8 percent of the total  - to seat representatives in the new parliament. Given Kyrgyzstan's history of settling political disputes violently, many people fear that followers of the losing parties will take to the streets.

Pyotr Chyornyak, a former newspaper editor, warns of street unrest.

But Ms. Otunbayeva, Central Asia's first woman president, has learned lessons during her first six months in power. Friday night, police checkpoints were set up outside all major cities. Army and police units were patrolling extensively.

Edil Basailov, who served until June as Ms. Otunbayeva's chief of staff, says the campaigning phase of the election is ending with virtually no reports of violence. "It is time to celebrate the will of the people, it is time to celebrate democracy,'' Basailov said.

But Aitmatova, urged caution. "Kyrgyzstan is a country where you cannot predict anything. When I fall asleep, I do not know what country I will wake up in. It can be anything. Anything can happen here," she said.

With 435 international election observers now fanning out across this mountainous land, the whole world will be watching what happens Sunday in Kyrgyzstan.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More