On October 4th 2020, parliamentary elections were held in Kyrgyzstan. Out of 16 parties competing for the 120 seats at the Supreme Council, only four parties crossed the 7% electoral threshold: Birimdik (“Unity”) got 24.5%, Mekenim Kyrgyzstan 23.88%, the Kyrgyzstan Party 8.76% and Butun Kyrgyzstan 7.13%. The first three parties which gained the majority of the votes are notoriously close to the Kirgyz president Sooronbay Jeenbekov. Opposition parties, which didn’t get any seats in Parliament, didn’t recognize the results, claiming electoral fraud.
The results of the elections sparked protests in the country. The protestors attacked the White House, where the Parliament and president’s office are situated. The opposition accused the authorities of massive violations and vote buying. In fact, the issue was actively discussed by the Kyrgyz citizens on social media. Due to a complicated socio-economic situation and peoples’ distrust of the political system, a lot of people were allegedly prone to sell their votes for 1,500 to 5,000 Kyrgyz soms ($19-$63), as reported by The Diplomat.
Once the protests spread, some influential Kyrgyz former politicians detained into the prison were released by the protesters. Among them, Kyrgyzstan’s former president Almazbek Atambayev, who was serving an 11-year sentence for corruption, was freed. However, it was only a few days before he was arrested once again for organizing mass protests.
On October 6th , the protesters freed Sadyr Japarov, who had been arrested in 2017 for having organized mass protests and having kidnapped a public official in 2013. He is the only released politician since the beginning of the political crisis who has been able to openly talk to the demonstrators.
Due to the continuous clashes on the streets of Kyrgyz cities – which provoked hundreds of injured people and the death of a young boy – Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission decided to annul the results of the elections. On the same day, the Kyrgyz prime minister Kubatbek Boronov stepped down and Sadyr Jarapov was nominated the new Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan. However, since the political reshuffle did not stop the protests, on 15th October, it was president Jeenbekov’s turn to announce his resignation by highlighting his desire to avoid bloodshed.
From a constitutional perspective, the presidential powers were supposed to be transmitted to the speaker of Parliament Kanat Isayev, who should have temporarily ruled the country until new elections. However Isayev, the leader of the Kyrgyzstan party, became the new target of cries for resignation as well. Therefore, he refused the position of acting president claiming it impossible for him to exercise this power. Consequently, the newly-appointed prime minister, Sadyr Jarapov, stepped in, affirming that all powers were “in his hands”. The day after, the Kyrzyg Parliament acknowledged him as the person who would lead the country to new elections.
Japarov has already promised to introduce a set of reforms aimed at reducing corruption, increasing transparency in judicial organs, and dissolving unnecessary state institutions. However, the contemporary situation in Kyrgyzstan is far from stable. New parliamentary elections should be held on December 20th, whereas the presidential ones on January 10th 2021. However, the adoption of a new electoral law with a reduced electoral threshold could occur, as well as constitutional revisions concerning the possibility for Jarapov to be a candidate in the new elections. In fact, according to the Kyrzyg constitution, an interim president has no right to take part in the elections. Being backed up by a narrow group of interest, including some alleged criminal backing, Japarov will have to prove his credibility in the crisis-ridden country.
The political crisis in Kyrgyzstan attracted the attention of the neighbouring Central-Asian countries, but also of China – which is a big player in the region – and of Russia – which traditionally considered Central Asia as its sphere of interest. On the one hand, Russian authorities have expressed their concern on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and proposed further developments on the economic bilateral relationship between Moscow and Bishkek. In addition, according to the state-controlled Russian agency TASS, Moscow will not intervene neither militarily nor politically in Kyrgyzstan. On the other hand, China remains mostly silent, giving just some formal comments hoping that the situation will normalize. On October 20th, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia, Natalia Gherman, expressed concern about the current situation in Kyrgyzstan, too. When she met the Kyrgyz acting president and current prime minister, Sadyr Jarapov, she reiterated the need for an “inclusive and transparent decision-making process”.
To sum up, the situation in Kyrgyzstan is currently hard to decipher. The upcoming elections will probably bring more clarity in the political processes taking place in the country. However, the leadership is still the issue at stake since the new prime minister, who appears to have huge political ambitions, has quite a controversial reputation in the country.
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