Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential elections on 15 October promise to be exciting. 58 candidates have applied. Meanwhile, two of the biggest parties in the country seem to be on the verge of splitting less than three months before polling stations open. Since President Atambaev is prohibited by the constitution from seeking another term, the results of this election will be more difficult to predict.
The Central Election Committee of Kyrgyzstan (CEC) has received 58 applications from those wishing to participate in the presidential election, of which 47 applications are from self-nominees and 11 from political parties. The nomination of candidates ended on 31 July.
The deadline for candidates to submit the entire package of documents to the CEC including at least 30,000 signatures in their support, results of a test for the knowledge of the Kyrgyz language, and to pay a 1 million Kyrgyzstani som electoral deposit, is 1 September. For 10 days, the CEC considers and registers presidential candidates. The election campaign will last from 10 September to 13 October.
The list of 58 is already getting shorter. One independent candidate dropped out after not showing up to his language exam. One of the conditions to run is to have good knowledge of the state language. An additional number is unlikely to make the final cut due to criminal records, according to the chair of the CEC, Nurzhan Shayldabekova.
As for political party candidates, the Ata-Jurt Party, which broke from its merger with the Respublika Party has put forward two candidates, Kamchybek Tashiev and Ahmatbek Keldibekov. The leader of the still-together Respublika-Ata-Jurt parliamentary faction, Omurbek Babanov, is also running.
So far former Prime Ministers Temir Sariev of the Ak-Shumkar (White Falcon) party and Omurbek Babanov of the Respublika party have indicated they will run, as have the current prime minister, Sooronbai Jeenbekov of the ruling Social Democratic Party; Bakyt Torobaev, leader of the Onuguu-Progress party, who actually was the first person to say he intended to run back in January; former parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov; Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party leader Omurbek Tekebaev; and former deputy Sadyr Japarov of the Ata-Jurt (Homeland) party.
The latter two are currently both behind bars. Tekebaev is being held on bribery and corruption charges, whereas Japarov fled the country to avoid arrest and was taken into custody shortly after he returned to Kyrgyzstan in March.
The election will not be without difficulty and it seems that, like Kyrgyzstan's elections in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the court system will be playing a prominent role during the registration and campaign process.
Radio Free Europe (RFERL) has said that there are all sorts of other potential charges in Kyrgyzstan's political minefield. Examples are citizenship issues, tax payments and declarations, and sources of funding. In Kyrgyzstan's 2000 parliamentary elections, several political parties were banned from participating just three months before election day. Individual candidates were declared ineligible days before the elections, and party leaders suddenly found themselves charged with offenses.
A broken union
One of the most unexpected twists of the presidential election so far is the seeming rifts in the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) and the Ata-Jurt Party.
These two parties won the most seats in the 2010 and 2015 parliamentary elections, which is why Ata-Jurt teamed up with the Respublika Party in the 2015 election. This union has since broken up, however the Respublika-Ata-Jurt faction in parliament remains intact.
The SDPK used to be the party of current President Almazbek Atambaev, but he was forced constitutionally to break ties with it after he was elected president in 2011. Many people in Kyrgyzstan still identify the SDPK with President Atambaev, and it seems like he will return to the party after he finishes his term in office later this year.
On 7 August three opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan announced their plans to merge. The Onuguu-Progress party confirmed that its leader Bakyt Torobaev, party chief Adakhan Madumarov of Mekenim-Kyrgyzstan (My Land - Kyrgyzstan), and Ata-Jurt co-chairmen Akmatbek Keldibekov and Kamchybek Tashiev had decided to create a new political party. This party, that has yet to be named, will put forward a single candidate for the presidential election.