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Kyrgyzstan - Political Parties

The period immediately preceding and following independence saw a proliferation of political groups of various sizes and platforms. Although President Akayev emerged from the strongest of those groups, in the early 1990s no organized party system developed either around Akayev or in opposition to him. In the 1990s, numerous political parties with a variety of agendas developed, but few had broad national followings.

The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan (CPK), which was the only legal political party during the Soviet years, was abolished in 1991 in the aftermath of the failed coup against the Gorbachev government of the Soviet Union. A successor, the Kyrgyzstan Communist Party, was allowed to register in September 1992. It elected two deputies to the lower house of parliament in 1995. In that party, significant oppositionists include past republic leader Absamat Masaliyev, a former first secretary of the CPK. The 1995 election also gave a deputy's mandate to T. Usubaliyev, who had been head of the CPK and leader of the republic between 1964 and 1982. Another party with many former communist officials is the Republican People's Party. Two other, smaller neocommunist parties are the Social Democrats of Kyrgyzstan, which gained three seats in the upper house and eight seats in the lower house of the 1995 parliament, and the People's Party of Kyrgyzstan, which holds three seats in the lower house.

All of the other parties in existence in 1995 began as unsanctioned civic movements. The first is Ashar (Help), which was founded in 1989 as a movement to take over unused land for housing; Ashar took one seat in the upper house in the 1995 elections. A fluctuating number of parties and groups are joined under the umbrella of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (DDK); the most influential is Erkin Kyrgyzstan (Freedom for Kyrgyzstan), which in late 1992 split into two parties, one retaining the name Erkin Kyrgyzstan, and the other called Ata-meken (Fatherland). In the 1995 elections, Erkin Kyrgyzstan took one seat and Ata-meken two seats in the upper house. In the spring of 1995, the head of Erkin Kyrgyzstan was indicted for embezzling funds from the university of which he is a rector; it is unclear whether or not this accusation was politically motivated.

Another democratically inclined party, Asaba (Banner) also took one seat in the upper house. Registration was denied to another group, the Freedom Party, because its platform includes the creation of an Uygur autonomous district extending into the Chinese Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which the Chinese government opposes. The Union of Germans took one seat in the lower house, and a Russian nationalist group, Concord, also took one seat.

For all their proliferation, parties have not played a large part in independent Kyrgyzstan. In the mid-1990s, early enthusiasm for the democratic parties faded as the republic's economy grew worse and party officials were implicated in the republic's proliferating political corruption. The communist successor parties, on the other hand, appeared to gain influence in this period. In the absence of elections, and with President Akayev belonging to no party, it is difficult to predict the future significance of any of these parties.

In the parliamentary elections of 2000 the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, an opponent of free-market economic reform, gained 28 percent of the vote. In general, opposition parties retained a high level of activity but were unable to form a united front against the Akayev regime; in the 1990s and early 2000s, opposition parties formed several unstable coalitions. A major opposition bloc, For People's Power, was established in 2004. The abolition in 2003 of party list voting for parliament and the abolition of runoff elections hampered the election efforts of opposition parties.

The resignation of President Akayev brought a fundamental realignment of parties, but the north-south divide remained a critical distinction among factions in 2006. In April 2006, the Union of Democratic Forces united seven parties and 11 nongovernmental organizations in a coalition that became a leading voice for reform. Among other opposition parties in 2006 were Ar-Namys, Asaba, Ata-Meken, the Pro-Reform Movement, and the Social Democratic Party.

The 16 December 2007 parliamentary elections will -- for the first time in Kyrgyzstan -- be conducted entirely on a proportional basis by party list; parties did not play a role in the previous parliament. Kyrgyzstan has numerous personality-based political parties, without clear platforms or deep organizational structures, and the call for snap elections caught most of these parties unprepared to conduct a nationwide contest on their own. As a result, a number of smaller parties rushed to join President Bakiyev's newly formed Ak Jol party, and some individual politicians demonstrated their "political flexibility" by switching party affiliations.

Fifty political parties (out of over 100 established parties in the country) registered their intention to run, but many are likely to drop out by November 18, when parties must finalize their lists, which must contain a minimum of 90 and maximum of 100 names and meet criteria on gender, age, and ethnic representation. In addition to submitting their lists, parties must put up a 500,000 som (over $14,000) deposit, which will be a substantial hurdle for smaller parties. However many parties run, probably fewer than a half dozen stood a realistic chance of entering parliament. The electoral code establishes extremely high thresholds for entering parliament: a party must get at least 5% of the number of registered voters (not 5% of the number of votes cast) nationwide and at least 0.5% of the number of registered voters in each of the seven oblasts, in Bishkek, and in Osh.

President Bakiyev established a new political party, Ak Jol ("Bright Path"), in mid-October 2007, a week prior to dissolving parliament and calling new elections. Although Bakiyev did not officially lead the party, Ak Jol is the president's creature, and Ak Jol has absorbed a number of smaller pro-government (and pro-president) parties, such as Ata-Jurt, El-Kelechegi, Moya Strana (My Country), United Kyrgyzstan, Jany Kyrgyzstan, the Labor and Unity Party and a few others. Ak Jol boasted several senior government officials and at least 20 former MPs among its members, including presidential chief of staff Medet Sadyrkulov, former Deputy Prime Minister (and current acting Mayor of Bishkek) Daniyar Usenov, Usen Sydykov, and ex-MPs Alisher Sabirov, Rashid Tagayev, and Kamchibek Tashiyev. On 10 November 2007, Ak Jol announced the top five candidates on its list: Constitutional Court Chair Cholpon Bayekova, State Secretary Adakham Madumarov, Rector of the Slavonic University and former leader of the pro-Russia Sodruzhestvo party Vladimir Nifadyev, well known surgeon Ernst Akramov, and former head of UN-funded ARIS Elmira Ibraimova.

Ata-Meken, headed by former Speaker of Parliament and opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev, is one of the older parties in Kyrgyzstan, with offices throughout the country. For this election, Ata-Meken tried to position itself as an umbrella organization for all opposition parties, but Ak-Shumkar (or what was left of it after the White House successfully decimated the party) was the only party formally to unite with Ata-Meken. Ata-Meken's membership included several former MPs, as well as prominent NGO leaders such as Cholpon Jakupova (Adilet Legal Clinic) and Asiya Sasykbayeva (Interbilim). Ata-Meken was the first party to announce its party list, and its top five candidates are: Tekebayev, former MP Kubatbek Baibolov, former MP Temir Sariyev, former Bishkek city council deputy chair Tatyana Ponomaryova, and ex-MP Duishenkul Chotonov.

Prime Minister Almaz Atambayev's Social Democratic Party announced its intention to run on its own, rather than unite with another party. The Social Democrats have a long history and are considered to have deep financial resources. In addition to Atambayev, its prominent members include AUCA Vice President Bakyt Beshimov, who has strong pull in the south, former NGO leader Edil Baisalov, and former Foreign Minister (and former Asaba party co-leader) Roza Otunbayeva. Party members have publicly been supportive of Bakiyev and have said that they need to work with power to affect change. Atambayev, however, will not be on the Social Democrats' list, as he is trying to preserve his chances of being named prime minister once again. Party chief of staff (ex-MP) Omurbek Babanov said on October 8 that Atambayev would continue to lead the government's efforts to ensure an honest election and to improve the economic situation. The Social Democrats' top five candidates are: Babanov, Beshimov, former MP and wealthy businessman Osmonbek Artykbayev, Irina Karamushkina, and Ruslan Shabotoyev.

The Asaba party, led by ex-MP and former Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov, has its base of support in the south of Kyrgyzstan. The party has toned down its Kyrgyz nationalist rhetoric, and it has added a well known ethnic Russian, Alevtina Pronenko, to its list to appeal to Russian voters. Beknazarov, however, remains a controversial (and polarizing) figure, as is the party's main donor, prominent physician Jenishbek Nazaraliyev. The party held its conference on Nov. 13 and nominated its candidates for the election. At the top of the list are: Nazaraliyev, Beknazarov, Roza Nurmatova, Pronenko, and ex-MP Dooronbek Sadyrbayev. Asaba is trying to bring in outside figures to its list, as neither Nazaraliyev nor Sadyrbayev are formally members of Asaba (the law allows inclusion of people who are not members of any party).

The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan, led by ex-MP Iskhak Masaliyev, has seen a steady decline in membership over the years, but it still counts on support from the older generation, who are traditionally the most diligent voters. Iskhak Masaliyev leads the list, which also includes Nikolay Bailo, Beishen Akunov, Bulmairam Mamaseitova, and Ainash Seitkaziyev.

Several other parties had prominent people on their lists, but probably lack the nationwide appeal necessary to overcome the regional thresholds. Former Prime Minister Felix Kulov headed the list for the Ar Namyz party, which has nationwide organization but whose support lies primarily in the north. The Democratic Party "Turan" had former MPs Taiyrbek Sarpashev and Kanybek Imanaliyev at the top of its list. The Meken ("Rodina" in Russian) party had ethnic-Uzbek former MP Kadyrjan Batyrov in the top spot, but the party had little following outside the south.

Most expect that the president's Ak Jol party will get the majority of the seats, whether or not it gets the majority of the votes. Government officials had pledged a fair election, but administrative resources will likely be (and already have been -- reftel) deployed in support of Ak Jol. As Minister of Justice Kaiypov put it, "We will try to do everything so that the electorate supports the ruling party, and we intend to do so in an honest and transparent fight."

Of the 2,033,961 votes cast [73.86% of registered voters] on December 16, 2007, the President's Ak Jol party got 1,245,331 votes, picking up 71 seats in the 90 seat parliament. The Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) got 188,585 and 11 seats, while the Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan (KCP) received 140,258 voates and 8 seats. The Central Election Commission stated that the Fatherland Party [Ata Meken] failed to win any seats, despite its second-place finish in votes - with 228,125 voates, because it did not secure at least 0.5 percent of the vote in one province, the city of Osh. Ata Meken honestly won 30 seats in the Parliament, but Omurbek Tekebayev, the head of the Ata Meken Party, was offered 12 seats. Tekebayev refused, and requested 20 seats, but Bakiyev intervened, and decided that Ata Meken should not have any seats in the Parliament.

In July 2009, President Bakiyev was re-elected as President in an election that many international observers characterized as flawed. Over the next several years, President Bakiyev moved to consolidate political power and to divide and suppress the opposition. Opposition political parties faced ongoing harassment, and the government actively uses criminal charges to threaten opposition leaders. In 2009, a number of opposition politicians and journalists were attacked and beaten, culminating in the death in Almaty, Kazakhstan, of Gennady Pavlyuk, a Kyrgyz journalist. Protests in April 2010 in the town of Talas and in Bishkek ousted Bakiyev and his government from office.

The October 2010 parliamentary elections, considered relatively free and fair, led to a three-party coalition that took power in December 2010. In the 2011 presidential election held on October 30, Almazbek Atambayev, the then prime minister, received more than 60 percent of the vote. Independent observers considered the election generally transparent and competitive, despite some irregularities. This was the country’s first peaceful transfer of power in its 20-year history.

The political party Ata-Jurt introduced its “State Ethnic Policy in the Kyrgyz Republic” on 27 April 2011. Observers criticized the Ata-Jurt draft. They contended that it directly contradicted the constitution and laws and that it violated internationally accepted human rights principles because it promoted the notion of Kyrgyz ethnicity as the central element of nationhood. They further alleged that the plan’s purpose was to promote the nationalist Ata-Jurt party prior to the impending presidential elections.

On November 12, 2011 Almazbek Atambaev of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan [SDPK] was officially confirmed as the winner of Kyrgyzstan's presidential election, securing nearly 63 percent of the 30 October 2011 vote. The Central Election Commission announced that Atambaev, a former prime minister, won an outright majority, avoiding the need for a second-round runoff. Adakhan Madumarov, leader of the Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan) party, won a close-run race for second place. He polled 14.8 percent to edge out third-placed Kamchibek Tashiev [of the Fatherland / Ata-Zhurt], with 14.3 percent. None of the other 13 candidates polled more than 1 percent of the vote. A new governing coalition was formed consisting of SDPK, Respublika, Ata-Meken and Ar-Namys. Parliament approved the new government on December 23, 2011, with Omurbek Babanov (leader of the Respublika faction) as the new prime minister. Following Atambayev’s inauguration on December 1, parliament formed a new governing coalition that included four of the five parties that held seats.

As of 2012 Political parties and leaders included Ata Jurt, (Fatherland) Kamchybek Tashiyev; Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, Chynybai Tursunbekov; Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan, Iskhak Masaliev; Ar Namys (Dignity) Party, Feliks Kulov; Ata-Meken (Fatherland) Party, Omurbek Tekebaev; Respublika, Omurbek Babanov; Jany Kyrgyzstan Party, Usen Sydykov; Erkindik (Freedom) Party, Shamshibek Utebaev; Zamandash (Contemporary) Party, Muktarbek Omurakunov; Ak Shumkar (White Falcon) Party, Temir Sariyev; Asaba (Flag), Azimbek Beknazarov; Green Party, Erkin Bulekbayev.

The next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2015.

Parliamentary Election - October 10, 2010

Party Valid Votes % [of Valid Votes] Seats
Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) 257,100 15.41% 28
Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) 237,634 14.15% 26
Dignity Party/ Ar-Namys Party 229,916 13.78% 25
Respublika 210,594 12.62% 23
Fatherland/ Ata Meken Socialist Party 166,714 9.99% 18
Butun Kyrgyzstan/ Alga 139,548 8.36% 0
Ak-Shumkar 78,673 4.71% 0
Party “Zamandash” 55,907 3.35% 0
Others 292,785 17.54% 0
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