Political overview since Kyrgyz independence
Since Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991 until 2005 the republic was ruled by President Askar Akayev. At first, Akayev was considered a liberal President, but his regime turned more authoritarian the longer he was in charge. In 2002 demonstrations against his rule broke out for the first time. Akayev promised to step down from office in 2005 after three presidential terms, but instead he tried to secure his power in other ways. Mass protests erupted in March against his rule following the Parliamentary elections in February 2005, because of the obvious failure to meet (international) democratic standards, such as a balanced media coverage. This led to the Tulip Revolution that officially started on 24 March 2005. The term ‘Tulip Revolution’ was used by Akayev himself in a speech warning that no “Color Revolution” should happen in Kyrgyzstan, after the non-violent Revolution’s in Georgia and Ukraine in 2004. During the Tulip Revolution, the opposition marched to the government building to demand the resignation of President Akayev and after a clash with pro-government protestors, the opposition took over the building. On 24 March 2005 Akayev fled to Kazahkstan and later to Russia where he was invited by President Putin to stay. Subsequently Kurmanbek Bakiyev, opposition leader and former Prime Minister (PM), was appointed as acting PM in March 2005, but was ousted in 2010.After an interim government took control, and a new Parliament was elected.
After the parliamentary elections in February 2005, which the opposition parties lost to pro-government parties, protests started over alleged election fraud. Protesters, especially in the southern part of the country, demanded new elections and the resignation of President Askar Akayev. When a bomb exploded in the house of oppositionist Rosa Otunbayeva, many blamed the government for the attack. Opposition MPs gathered outside the Parliament building and protests throughout the country intensified. In the south of the country many violent altercations between protesters and police took place. The fragmented opposition came together in Jalalabad and gathered over 50,000 people in protest. On 24 March large protests were held in Bishkek, and protesters occupied several government buildings as Akayev fled to Kazakhstan, but refused to resign. A number of political prisoners were released and the election results were declared invalid. An interim government was formed, with former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev named as interim President, and Felix Kulov interim Interior Minister. Because the breakdown of the government lawlessness was present in Bishkek and the rest of the country Akayev loyalists tried to take back power. On 28 March the old Parliament was dissolved and the new Parliament was legitimized, while on 5 April Akayev resigned as President. The interim Parliament was accused of continuing some of Akayev’s policies and unrest remained. In the following July Presidential elections Bakiyev and Kulov ran, and Bakiyev won the Presidency, while Kulov became Prime Minister until Bakiyev ousted him in 2007.
Violent anti-government demonstrations & ethic violence in 2010
In April 2010 thousands of demonstrators went out to the streets of Bishkek to air their dissatisfaction with the regime. When President Bakiyev came to power he was soon seen as an autocratic ruler. The protests turned violent on 7 April, after Bakiyev ordered security forces to arrest demonstrators. Consequently, protesters attacked the police and tried to storm the government building. Police reacted by shooting at the demonstrators, killing an estimated 85 and leaving many more injured. The violence continued for several days and Bakiyev fled to the southern part of the country, where most of his supporters lived. In Bishkek the opposition forces formed an interim coalition government, led by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Roza Otunbayeva, who announced plans to call elections in six months. Ultimately Bakiyev fled to Belarus, while a court in Bishkek began hearing the trial of Bakiyev and 27 of his aides in connection with the shooting of protesters that April.
Meanwhile tensions between the Kyrgyz and the ethnic Uzbek minority in the south of Kyrgyzstan came to the fore. On 11 June ethnic violence erupted in Osh and Jalalabad, forcing about 400.000 Kyrgyz from Uzbek descent to leave their homes. According to official numbers over 400 people were killed. By the end of June the situation was stabilized. It is thought that the ouster of Bakiyev contributed to those tensions, as the Uzbeks mainly supported the interim government, while many Kyrgyz backed Bakiyev. Interim leader Otunbayeva acknowledged that her government was not able to ease the tensions in Osh. The Kyrgyz interim government appealed for Russian assistance, but Moscow refused to send in peacekeepers as did the other Central Asian countries. Both the UN and the EU raised concerns about the situation.
Dissolvement government March 2014
The Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party announced, on 18 March, its withdrawal from the Kyrgyz government coalition, which means the government, will be dissolved. Ata-Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebayev said the withdrawal was the result of a parliamentary inquiry into the State Directorate for Reconstruction of Osh and Jalal-Abad Cities, which was headed by Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiyev. The ministers will remain at their posts until a new government is formed. Joomart Otorbaev will act as the interim Prime Minister.
Kyrgyz President Atambayev will asked the parliament to form a new majority coalition, the forth since the 2011 parliamentary elections. A member of parliament for the nationalist opposition party Respublika, Kurmanbek Dyikanbayev, said his party wants to join the new coalition. “We are ready to join the new coalition, and will probably nominate Omurbek Babanov (leader of Respublika) for Prime Minister.”
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has sought alternative forms of cooperation with the former Soviet states. In 2010 it launched the Customs Union of which Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan are part. The goals of this Union were “to eliminate trade and non-trade barriers within the union, and to agree on the common external tariff.” Kyrgyzstan also stated it wants to join. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev stated last week that the road map for the country to join the Customs Union “has been practically accomplished” and “will be approved soon by the union’s member states.”
Not everyone agrees, however: in May 2014 around 100 activists representing several Kyrgyz nongovernmental organisations held a protest against Kyrgyzstan joining the Russian-led Customs Union. During the protest they declared that “Kyrgyzstan’s joining of the Customs Union would lead to the limitation of its political and economic independence.”
Women make up 52% of the Kyrgyz society and 42,5% of the Labour force. Article 3 of the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan prohibits all discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnic origin or religious belief. The civil, penal, labour and family codes of Kyrgyzstan all uphold equal rights and the legal framework protecting Kyrgyz women’s rights complies with international standards. However, discrimination against women and violence against women is becoming increasingly widespread. Women are generally ill-informed about their rights and the traditional patriarchal system perpetuates gender-based stereotypes. In Kyrgyzstan 28 of the 120 seats in parliament are allocated to women, which makes up 23.3% of the seats.
Parliamentary elections 2015
On 4 October 2015 Parliamentary elections were held in Kyrgyzstan. 14 political parties participated in the election. One of the requirements for parties to register for election is to have a list of 120 candidates and both genders have to make up at least 30% of the voting lists. Ethnic minorities have to make up at least 15% of the voting list. No party is allowed to occupy more than 65 seats in the 120 seat Parliament, while a 7% threshold is in place for election into the Parliament. An estimated 60% of the 2.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the elections.
According to the Central Election Commission the Social Democratic Party (SDPK) was the official winner of the election, garnering 27% of the votes , which corresponds to 38 seats in Parliament. In total, 6 parties passed the electoral threshold and entered parliament.
|Party||% of votes||seats in Parliament|
|Social Democratic Party (SDPK)||27.4%||38|
|Respublika-Ata Jurt (Fatherland)||20.1%||28|
The campaigns of the candidates focused mainly on personality and how the candidates related to the deep divide between the north and the south of the country. Atambaev campaigned as a leader that might be able to unite the country again, after the violent protests of April 2010. The wealthy businessman had the best-funded campaign and enjoyed significant public exposure by serving as prime minister until the elections. His two main rivals, Madumarov and Tashiev campaigned as nationalists both from the south, with especially Tashiev using harsh rhetoric.
Both the OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted irregularities with regard to the voter rolls. Many names were missing, thus preventing people from voting. There were also problems with counting and tabulation of votes in some districts, with observers being completely barred from this part of the process. The OSCE also reported that media were severely restricted in their reporting on the campaigns in hopes of preventing biased journalism. Finally, it was noted that the Central Election Commission, although impartial in its work, should strive to be more open in order to raise public confidence. Most of its meetings were behind closed doors.
Constitutional Referendum 27 June 2010
On 27 June 2010 the Kyrgyz voted in a referendum for the introduction of a Parliamentary democracy after the ethnic unrest in the preceding weeks. Many people were unsure whether to proceed with the referendum considering the many (Uzbek) people who were homeless at that time. The interim government decided to pursue the referendum, because it would also give legitimacy to the new government. Over 90 per cent of the participants voted in favour of the proposed constitution.
According to the new constitution, no political party can be created on religious or ethnic grounds, and members of the armed forces, police, and the judiciary are not allowed to join a political party. Another significant change is that the President has lost the right to appoint all 13 members of the Central Election Commission. That key electoral body now consists largely of independent civil society leaders.
The voter turnout was nearly 70 percent. OSCE monitored the elections and stated that “although there were evident shortcomings, the reported high turnout indicates citizens' resilience and desire to shape the future of their country”. Some Uzbeks had problems with voting, because their passports were destroyed during the riots or they were afraid to leave their neighbourhoods to vote. The interim government decided that people could vote without their passport if they registered their home address at a municipal office. Overall, the international election commissions administered the process in a largely transparent, collegiate and timely manner.
Political parties in the republic are highly personified. People tend to vote for a person rather than for the party’s ideology or program. Accordingly, the political parties focus on their list of candidates which they constitute out of people enjoying popularity and influence among the population. Similarly, most politicians do not regard political parties as much more than a vehicle to get into the Parliament. One of the results is the existence of more then hundred political parties in the republic.
Social Democratic Party (SDPK)
Chairperson: Chynybay Tursunbekov
The Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) was founded in 1993 by Abdygany Erkebaev, who was replaced by Almazbek Atambaev as its chairman in 1999. After Atambaev was elected President he had, in accordance with Kyrgyz law, to distance himself from the party and Chynybay Tursunbekov became the party’s chairman. The party formed a coalition with the larger El Party in preparation for the February 2005 parliamentary elections. The SDPK emphasizes a socially oriented development, economic revival and has been a great proponent of the establishment of a parliamentary system. The party played an important role in the Tulip Revolution of 2005 and in large-scale public protests against the Bakiev government in April and November 2006. Prominent members are Roza Otunbayeva the interim President from April 2010 until December 2011 and the current President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev. The party has contacts with the Socialist International (SI), but it does not have any status within the SI. The SDPK came in first in the 2015 parliamentary elections and gained 38 seats in parliament.
Fatherland Party (Ata Meken) / Socialist Party
Chairperson: Omurbek Tekebayev
Observer Status at the Socialist International
Omurbek Tekebayev founded Ata-Meken in 1992 following a split from the Erkin Kyrgyzstan party. He has been the party leader ever since. The party participated in all parliamentary elections, winning seats in the Kyrgyz parliament in 1994 and 2000. Tekebayev was Speaker of Parliament from March 2005 till February 2006, but resigned after a clash with former President Bakiyev. The party favors parliamentary democracy and economic reforms and can be considered center left. It favors a compromise between various social sectors and government bodies. Ata-Meken is popular mostly in the north of Kyrgyzstan. Therefore the party is trying to strengthen its ranks with members of the Parliament representing different regions, hoping to widen its support bases. In the Parliamentary elections of 2015 the party just passed the electoral threshold and holds 11 seats in Parliament.
The Party of Communists
Chairperson: Bumairam Mamaseitova
The Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan (KPK) says to have about 2000 members and is one of the largest parties in Kyrgyzstan. The party was founded in 1992. The party’s ideology could be considered as social democratic. It accepts a pluralistic political system and a market economy but is strongly opposed to the privatization of public assets such as the energy system. Mamaseitova's predecessor was Iskhak Masaliev. He is the son of former party-leader Absamat Masaliev, who led the party until his dead in 2004. Iskhak Masaliev resigned in August 2010 as he was detained in May that year, accused of planning mass disorder and attempting to overthrow the government. His case was sent to court on 25 October 2010. Masaliev said his detention prevented him from campaigning for the parliamentary elections. The Communists failed to garner enough votes in the parliamentary elections to have seats in the parliament.
Respublika-Ata Jurt (Fatherland)
Chairperson: Kamchybek Tashiev
The right-wing party Ata Jurt won the most seats (28) in the parliamentary elections of October 2010. The party was founded in 2004 by interim President Otunbayeva (2010-2011) and several others. Otunbayeva however later became a member of the SDPK. Ata Jurt has a strong base in south Kyrgyzstan, because of its hardline nationalistic rhetoric and call for economic support of the southern part of the country, and they supported ousted president Bakiyev. In 2014 however Ata Jurt merged with Respublika, a nationalistic party that embraces Kyrgyzstan’s ethnic diversity. In the 2010 Parliamentary elections, that came just after the formation of Respublika, the party gained 23 seats in parliament. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections the combined Respublika – Ata Jurt became the second largest party, with 20% of the votes and 28 seats in Parliament.
Chairperson: Kanatbek Isaev
The Kyrgyzstan party was created in May 2015 by former Respublika MP Kanatbek Isaev. It has a strong support base in the south of the country. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections Kyrgyzstan gained 12.8% of the votes and 18 seats in Parliament.
Onuguu (Progress) Chairperson: Bakyt Torobayev Onuguu-Progress was founded in 2012 by former deputy speaker of parliament and Respublika politician Bakyt Torobayev. It has a stronghold in the Southern part of the country. In 2013 Onuguu was joined by the Unity of Peoples party, another party that had strong support in the south. From the start Onuguu-Progress has opposed the government in Bishkek, as well as an alternative to the traditional opposition party Respublika-Ata Jurt. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections Onuguu-Progress gained 9.3% of the votes and 13 seats in Parliament. Butun Kyrgyzstan- Emgek (United Kyrgyzstan) Chairperson: Adakhan Madumarov Butun Kyrgyzstan is a nationalistic party popular in the south of the country, with a leader who previously served as the national security council chief under former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. In 2015 Butun merged with the Emgek (Labor) party, but during the 2015 Parliamentary election they gained 6.18% of the votes, just below the 7% threshold and did not enter Parliament. Zamandash Chairperson: Muktarbek Omurakunov Almazbek Atambayev Kamchybek Tashiev Omurbek Tekebayev was born in 1958 in Jalalabad. Tekebayev graduated in physics and in law from the Kyrgyz State National University. In 1991 he was one of the founders of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan National Democratic Party. One year later the party split and he founded the Ata-Meken Party and served in the Kyrgyz parliament from 1995 to 2005. Tekebayev ran for president in 2000, receiving 14 percent of the votes. When Akayev was ousted in 2005 he became the speaker of the new parliament. Tekebayev resigned in 2006 and played a key role in organizing protests against Bakiyev in 2006. He founded the For Reforms Party, demanding reforms from Bakiyev. Tekebayev stepped down as chairman of the party in March 2007, but remained politically active and an outspoken critic of Bakiyev. He was arrested on 6 April 2010 during the violent protests against Bakiyev, but was released later that day. Tekebayev was appointed to serve as Deputy in charge of carrying out constitutional reforms by interim President Roza Otunbayeva. Despite hailing from the south, Tekebayev is seen by many as one of the few politicians who attracts support (and vehement opposition) across regional cleavages. When the new parliament was formed, Tekebayev was nominated as speaker for the ruling coalition. However, he narrowly failed to win the majority vote required to endorse his candidacy. Ata-Meken subsequently entered opposition as the smallest of the five parties in the national legislature. Roza Otunbayeva
Chairperson: Altynbek Sulaimanov
Former Respublika MP Altynbek Sulaimanov founded Bir-Bol in 2014. Bir-Bol is a technocrat party that is supported throughout the country. The party supports a return to a Presidential system instead of the parliamentary system. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections Bir-Bol gained 8.5% of the votes and 12 seats in Parliament
The Kyrgyz diaspora has created parties representing the interests of hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz labour immigrants abroad. They biggest of those parties is called Zamandash, established in 2007. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections Zamandash gained 2.8% of the vote, gaining no seats in Parliament.
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President of Kyrgyzstan
Almazbek Atambayev was born on 17 September 1956 in the village of Arashan in the north of Kyrgyzstan. He graduated from the Moscow Institute of Management with a degree in economics and went into business afterwards, becoming director of manufacturing companies. In 1983 – 1987 he served in the Supreme Council of the Kyrgyz SSR. Atambayev is one of the founding members of the Social Democratic Party and became its chairman in 1999. He ran for President in the 2000 elections, but was unsuccessful. In 2005 and 2006 Atambayev headed the Ministry of industry, trade and tourism, but resigned in April 2006 as he accused Bakiyev of corruption and of blocking reforms. Nonetheless, in April 2007 he became prime minister under Bakiyev in an appointment that was seen as a concession to the opposition. However, in November 2007 he resigned again, because of Bakiyev’s nepotism and corruption. He ran in the 2009 presidential elections and received about 8 percent of the vote. Together with others he claimed there were mass violations, but his protest was unsuccessful. He was elected president in the 2011 elections.
Leader Respublika - Ata Jurt
Also Kamchybek Tashiev is a relative newcomer to the Kyrgyz political scene and was by many seen as the most controversial of the presidential candidates for the presidential elections in 2011. He has been an member of parliament and served as minister under President Bakiyev. Disagreements led to his resignation in 2009, leaving Mr Tashiev free to emerge as an influential opposition leader as the Bakiyev administration fell. But critics still accuse him of links with the former President. Mr Tashiev 's numerous followers in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad credit him with stopping the bloodshed during ethnic clashes there in June 2010. But his claims that Uzbek community leaders instigated the violence earned him the image of a divisive nationalist, a label that has also been attached to his party Ata Zhurt. Mr Tashiev is known to be a supporter of strong presidential power. Tashiev came third with 14.3 %.
Leader Ata Meken
Leader of the Ata-Meken Party
Interim president 2010-2011
Roza Otunbayeva was born on 23 August 1950 in Osh. She graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of Moscow State University in 1972 and went on to teach as senior professor and head of the philosophy department at the Kyrgyz State National University. Her political career began in 1981 in Bishkek as the second secretary of the Lenin “rayon” council of the Communist Party. From 1986-1989 Otunbayeva was the deputy chairwoman of the council of ministers. Subsequently she served as head of the USSR Delegation to UNESCO in Paris and as the Soviet Ambassador in Malaysia. In 1992 Otunbayeva became the Kyrgyz ambassador to the USA and Canada and from 1994 until 1997 she served as the Kyrgyz Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister under Akayev. Atter that she became the Kyrgyz ambassador to the United Kingdom and the United Nations special deputy to Georgia. Otunbayeva returned to Kyrgyzstan in 2004 and founded the Ata-Zhurt party together with three other opposition parliamentarians. She was a driving force behind protests against Akayev and after the Tulip Revolution she was appointed Foreign Minister by the new President Bakiyev.
However the parliament failed to confirm her in the post. Otunbayeva then went into opposition as a member of the Social Democratic Party. She played a key role in the November 2006 protests that pressed successfully for a new democratic constitution, and became highly critical of Bakiyev, saying that his government continued the corruption and nepotism of Akayev. Otunbayeva was elected into parliament in December 2007 and served as head of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party from October 2009.
Chairperson: Bakyt Torobayev
Onuguu-Progress was founded in 2012 by former deputy speaker of parliament and Respublika politician Bakyt Torobayev. It has a stronghold in the Southern part of the country. In 2013 Onuguu was joined by the Unity of Peoples party, another party that had strong support in the south. From the start Onuguu-Progress has opposed the government in Bishkek, as well as an alternative to the traditional opposition party Respublika-Ata Jurt. In the 2015 Parliamentary elections Onuguu-Progress gained 9.3% of the votes and 13 seats in Parliament.
Butun Kyrgyzstan- Emgek (United Kyrgyzstan)
Chairperson: Adakhan Madumarov
Butun Kyrgyzstan is a nationalistic party popular in the south of the country, with a leader who previously served as the national security council chief under former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. In 2015 Butun merged with the Emgek (Labor) party, but during the 2015 Parliamentary election they gained 6.18% of the votes, just below the 7% threshold and did not enter Parliament.
Chairperson: Muktarbek Omurakunov
Omurbek Tekebayev was born in 1958 in Jalalabad. Tekebayev graduated in physics and in law from the Kyrgyz State National University. In 1991 he was one of the founders of the Erkin Kyrgyzstan National Democratic Party. One year later the party split and he founded the Ata-Meken Party and served in the Kyrgyz parliament from 1995 to 2005. Tekebayev ran for president in 2000, receiving 14 percent of the votes. When Akayev was ousted in 2005 he became the speaker of the new parliament. Tekebayev resigned in 2006 and played a key role in organizing protests against Bakiyev in 2006. He founded the For Reforms Party, demanding reforms from Bakiyev. Tekebayev stepped down as chairman of the party in March 2007, but remained politically active and an outspoken critic of Bakiyev. He was arrested on 6 April 2010 during the violent protests against Bakiyev, but was released later that day. Tekebayev was appointed to serve as Deputy in charge of carrying out constitutional reforms by interim President Roza Otunbayeva. Despite hailing from the south, Tekebayev is seen by many as one of the few politicians who attracts support (and vehement opposition) across regional cleavages. When the new parliament was formed, Tekebayev was nominated as speaker for the ruling coalition. However, he narrowly failed to win the majority vote required to endorse his candidacy. Ata-Meken subsequently entered opposition as the smallest of the five parties in the national legislature.
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