After the Tulip revolution in March 2005, and the fleeing of president Askar Akayev, Kurmanbek Bakiyev was elected President. However, he was ousted in April 2010 after being accused of nepotism and corruption. An interim government was established, led by interim President Roza Otunbayeva (SDPK). She called a referendum in June 2010 in which Kyrgyz citizens voted in favor of the introduction of a parliamentary democracy and constitutional changes, including curbing presidential powers. The first largely free and fair parliamentary elections took place on 10 October 2010, followed by presidential elections in October 2011, which were won by Almazbek Atambaev. The country became the first parliamentary republic in Central Asia. The process of democratization, however, did not happen without the disbandment of several coalitions between 2012 and 2015. In October 2015, the second free and fair parliamentary elections were held in Kyrgyzstan, leading to a big victory for the Pro-Russian Social Democratic party (SDPK).
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- 5,957,000 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- Ata Meken; Social Democratic Party; Ar Namys
- Last Elections:
- 4 October 2015 (parliamentary elections)
- Next Elections:
- October 2017 (presidential elections)
Political overview since Kyrgyz independence
From 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 revolutions 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 Russia's President Putin to stay. Subsequently Kurmanbek Bakiyev, opposition leader and former prime minister, was appointed as acting PM in March 2005, but he was ousted in 2010. Thereafter an interim government took control and a new parliament was elected.
After the parliamentary elections of February 2005, in 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 Roza 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 of 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 presidential elections of July, Bakiyev and Kulov ran against each other. Bakiyev won the elections and became President, 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 new 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 2010 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 the 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.
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 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”.
However, not everyone agreed. 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 percent of the Kyrgyz society and 42,5 percent 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, the widespread discrimination and violence against women are increasing. 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 percent of the seats.
Political parties in Kyrgyzstan 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.
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 percent of the voting lists. Ethnic minorities have to make up at least 15 percent of the voting list. No party is allowed to occupy more than 65 seats in the 120 seat parliament, while a 7 percent threshold is in place for election. An estimated 60 percent 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 elections of 2015, gaining 27 percent of the votes, which corresponds with 38 seats. In total 6 parties passed the electoral threshold and entered parliament.
|Party||Seats in parliament||% of the votes|
|Social Democratic Party (SDPK)||38||27,4 %|
|Respublika-Ata Jurt (Fatherland)||28||20,1 %|
|Kyrgyzstan Party||18||12,8 %|
|Onuguu (Progress)||13||9,3 %|
|Bir-Bol (Unity)||12||8,5 %|
|Ata-Meken (Fatherland) Socialist Party||11||7,7 %|
During the elections biometric ID cards were used to identify voters. The cards were scanned to identify voters by their fingerprints in order to stamp out voter fraud, which had led to protest in previous elections. There were some flaws with the system, leading to problems for 3 to 5 percent of the voters. According to the OSCE the elections were fair and transparent, which is unique for the region, although there were some reported small flaws and irregularities.
On 30 October 2011 presidential elections were held in Kyrgyzstan. The OSCE said the elections were conducted in a peaceful manner, but improvements must be made to comply with international standards. Sixteen candidates competed in the race, but a total of 24 showed up at the ballot, with eight names crossed out because they withdrew from the race shortly before the elections. Almazbek Atambaev, former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan, won the elections in the first round with 63 percent of the votes. The turnout was 57 percent.
|Candidate||Votes||% of votes|
|Almazbek Atambaev||1,173,113||63,2 %|
|Adakhan Madumarov||273,577||14,7 %|
|Kamchybek Tashiev||265,460||14,3 %|
|Temirbek Asanbekov||17,174||0,9 %|
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 (ODIHR) 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 citizens 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 percent 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 party. Another significant change is that the president has lost the right to appoint all 13 members of the Central Election Commission. This key electoral body now consists largely of independent civil society leaders.
The voter turnout at the referendum 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.