News / Europe

Kyrgyzstan Votes for New Parliament

Members of local electoral committee sort through a ballot box, at a polling station in Osh, Southern Kyrgyzstan, 10 Oct 2010
Members of local electoral committee sort through a ballot box, at a polling station in Osh, Southern Kyrgyzstan, 10 Oct 2010
James Brooke

Kyrgyzstan has conducted parliamentary elections in an effort to find a winning political formula for Central Asia's most politically unstable nation.

Usually governments in Kyrgyzstan change with the rattle of gunfire. But today, voters tried a new way - the rustle of paper ballots.

With the vote, Kyrgyzstan embarks on an experiment in parliamentary democracy in a region marked by authoritarian, one man rule.

Six months after a street revolution swept away an entrenched dictator, Kyrgyz voted among 29 parties to elect a new parliament. Parties in this 120-member parliament are to form a ruling coalition and choose a new prime minister.

After voting, interim Kyrgyzstan President Roza Otunbaeva dismissed worries about future political gridlock.

"I am sure that we will have a stable government that will lead the country forward," he said.

Ms. Otunbaeva took power after a street revolution in April overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the second such street uprising in five years. In June, inter-ethnic violence claimed hundreds of lives in southern Kyrgyzstan.

In response to a question from VOA, Ms. Otunbaeva said the election law required inclusion of ethnic minorities on party candidate lists. During the campaign, she said, parties courted ethnic votes, including those of Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Voters turned out peacefully across the nation, including in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan's largest city and the scene of most of the inter-ethnic fighting. Votes were cast by 55 percent of the nation's 2.8-million eligible voters.

In addition to political instability, a major issue weighing on voters was the poor shape of the landlocked nation's economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, Kyrgyzstan is the only country in the former Soviet Union that will register negative economic growth this year.

Instead of growing by five percent as predicted, the economy is expected to shrink by 3.5 percent. The principal culprit is the political violence of the first half of this year.

Voters faced a ballot nearly one-meter long that contained 29 party choices. To grab voters, party leaders chose evocative names such as Eagle, Justice, Dignity, Builders and Generous People.

Dignity, a pro-Russian party, appeared to surge in the polls as its leader Felix Kulov saturated the nation with advertisements show him posing with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev. Mr. Kulov, a former interior minister who speaks Kyrgyz poorly, is also seen by some ethnic minorities as the guarantor against resurgent Kyrgyz nationalism.

A 23-year-old ethnic-Russian college student, Anastasia Borozdina, said she believed Mr. Kulov would protect Kyrgyzstan's historically multi-ethnic character.

"I think it is important for keeping Kyrgyzstan as a multinational country. Because there are many Russian and Uzbek people here."

Two pro-government center-left parties - Ata-Meken and the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) - are expected to do well.

Polls indicate five parties will win seats in the parliament and a coalition will be necessary.

President Otunbaeva predicted the 'winners and losers' of last April's street revolution would find themselves seated in parliament this fall.

But many Kyrgyz, lawyer Aynura Sultanbaeva, 22, say they are worried political instability will only continue as parties jockey for positions in a ruling coalition.

"The problem with Kyrgyzstan is that there is no leader," she said. "And even if he is a bad leader, it is easier to bargain with him and for international investments to come into the country. But when there are lots of leaders, you have to bargain with everybody."

Washington has strongly backed Kyrgyzstan's move to multi-party elections. President Barack Obama's administration has spent $5-million to help Kyrgyzstan organize the elections.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told Radio Free Europe's Kyrgyz service the elections could become a model for Central Asia.

The United States maintains an air transit center near Bishkek that has become key to the NATO war effort in Afghanistan.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs