Kyrgyz still desperately short of vowels

October 12, 2010 § 2 Comments

The Kyrgyz vowel shortage continues as Dzhurt and the SPDK become the largest parties.


Seriously, the Kyrgyz elections are primarily good news. Whilst it is still early days, the OSCE monitoring team are already describing the elections as the freest and fairest yet held in central Asia. Moreover, the largest party elected, the conservative Ata-Dzhurt, mainly represent the southern areas and had previously been thought to back ousted President Bakiyev and support separation for the south. Now they have a stake in the government, they have refuted wanting either and seem anxious to build a coherent coalition government which represents all areas and all factions, and allows President Otunbayeva to remain in post.

The bad news is that the Kyrgyz 2010 elections may become a classic example of a situation where an electoral system, whilst looking good on paper, causes problems because it is not suited to the situation on the ground. 120 seats are elected by closed list PR with a 5% threshold to get into Parliament. The problem is that this uncertain new political space has created a situation where there are 27 different political parties vying for power – none of whom can claim more than a couple of percent of the voters as supporters. There was almost a situation where no party passed the threshold. In the end it wasn’t quite that bad. Even so the largest party, Ata Dzhurt, only won 8.8% of the vote and only five parties passed the threshold. As such any party that gets any seats at all has to receive a lot of seats to make the numbers up to the 120. There were parties just either side of the 5% margin, and the difference of just a few 0.1% became the difference between receiving no seats at all and becoming one of the largest parties in Parliament.

It also means that only 38% of the votes cast counted towards the result. 62% of voters voted for parties that didn’t make the threshold. That’s an awful lot of dissatisfied people and could prove a threat to the government. As one would expect the first to object have been parties that just missed out on the 5%: largely centre-right and nationalist parties. So far the protests have only attracted a few hundred in Bishkek and a thousand or so in the southern city of Osh – so not the tens of thousands that have twice brought the government down in Kyrgyzstan. That said, these movements take a while to gather momentum: in both the last two Kyrgyz cases and in the case of neighbouring Tajikistan the revolt did not come straight after the election but a few months or even years later. So we’re not out of the woods yet.

And what of the parties that did win? Well, helpfully they represent a nice smorgasbord of the Kyrgyz political spectrum. We have discussed the first placed Ata Dzhurt, they got 28 seats. In second place we have the centre-left pro-Otunbayeva SPDK, they got 26 seats. In third place the pro-Russian Ar-Namys (who have an English website) with 25 seats. In fourth place with 23 seats are Respublica, a party of an oligarch named Babanov who aimed their campaign squarely at young people (their campaign prominently featured their endorsement by a young half-Congloese-half-Kyrgyz world kickboxing champion, a bold move in a society which can be quite racist). Bringing up the rear, but still winning 18 seats, are the liberal Ata Meken party.


Tomorrow I’ll do a roundup of the Bosnian and Latvian results and a look forward to the Czech election. I’m not going to do the Brazilian results because there is nothing I can add to this roundup but feel free to discuss it below.


Elections this weekend

October 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

We only have one election this weekend.


Kyrgyzstan elects its parliament on Sunday – 120 MPs will be elected by closed list PR and so far the OSCE says things are free and fair. The President, Roza Otunbayeva, will stay in power regardless of the result but this is the first democratic test of her Government – which took power following a coup in April of this year. People will be keenly watching to see how her supporters do relative to allies of the former president Bakiyev.

In reality though it will not make much difference – a hugely hostile parliament will be the least likely result. What will be interesting to see is how different both turnout and results are in the southern areas of Osh compared to the north. Osh was Bakiyev’s base and there is far less support for the coup there than in the rest of the country. There has been open talk of seceding from Kyrgystan and inviting Bakiyev back to be president of a “Southern Kyrgystan”. Moreover many are worried that if political divisions harden along regional lines it could lead to the kind of inter-regional civil war which left many tens of thousands dead in neighbouring Tajikistan in the 1990s.

In reality both of these outcomes are quite unlikely but it will be interesting to see if the result of this election is a coming together for Kyrgyzstan or a drifting apart.

Finally since this is my blog I’m going to plug a piece I wrote at the beginning of the year on the coup.


Niger was supposed to have a constitutional referendum on Sunday but it has been delayed to the 31st to allow 600,000 more names to be added to the voter lists. This is part of a move to normalise politics in what seems to be a genuine desire for democracy on the part of the military Junta.

The story starts in late 2009 when former president Mamadou Tandja, upon coming to the end of his term, changed the constitution to give himself three more years in power. Elections were held to ratify the changes but their fairness was doubted. Elections were then held to the parliament which the opposition boycotted. Fearing that the country was going to slip back into dictatorship, the military launched a coup and ousted him. It remains to be seen whether this is due to a genuine desire to restore democracy or whether the purpose is to install a puppet regime with military support.

The constitutional changes look good on paper. The position of Prime Minister is restored, the President’s powers are trimmed, and several added checks and balances are introduced. All MPs have to be re-elected every five years and the President is limited to two 5-year terms.

I expect you’re wondering what Niger’s national anthem sounds like:

The next elections are in the Czech Republic on Friday. More on that soon. Finally here is President of Bolivia, Evo Morales in action:

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