By Gulay Mutlu
Kyrgyzstan has witnessed significant developments in succession after the revolution experienced in 2010. After the chaotic environment experienced last year, the Office of the President, which was left in a democratic and legal way by Roza Otunbayeva, found its new owner who was elected as a temporary President of the Republic with the election that ended yesterday.
The constitutional referendum, which took place in the process of the presidency of Otumbayeva, was the first important step toward the democratization of Kyrgyz folk. Shortly after, the government through the tough process composed of the Fatherland Party, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, and Respublika. Almaz Atambayev was carrying out the job of Prime Minister.
According to the unofficial results of the presidential elections of October 30, 2011, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Almaz Atambayev, won the election in the first round by receiving 62.7 percent of the vote, with statements pledging to “reduce corruption and to be in unity and solidarity.”
After the withdrawal of the three candidates on October 27 from the election in which 16 candidates competed, Almambet Matubarimov, Jumabek Toktogaziev, Roman Omorov, the deputy of the nationalist-prone Fatherland Party Kamchybek Tashiev at 15 percent, and the leader of the United Kyrgyzstan Party Adakhan Madumarov at 14.85 percent received votes. The other 13 candidates’ percent of the vote did not reach even 1 percent.
The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission declared that Atambayev garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, and that is why there was no need for a second round. Thus, in a country experiencing a north-south division, the possibility of sharing power with a southern leader who can be selected in the second round with northerner Atambayev is eliminated as a matter of debate.
“Historical Experiences” in Post-Soviet Central Asia
Living the experience of a transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary system in post-Soviet Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has lead a way in this regard. In this “historical election,” Almaz Atambayev who is one of the leaders of the social democrats, has advocated the parliamentary system. He was also on the opposition side during Bakiev’s administration. Consequently, electing Almaz Atambayev overrides the concern of going back to a presidential system.
The other topic pondered by the international community is whether the Uzbeks will vote in the elections after the 2010 Kyrgyz-Uzbek ethnic conflict. Although Uzbeks live in the southern part of the country, they support Atambayev instead of the southern candidates. On the other hand, the Kyrgyz community was aware that the election would occur between two candidates: social democrat Almaz Atambayev who highlighted “Kyrgyzstan citizenship” and Kyrgyz nationalist Tashiev.
800 international observers from different international organizations and more than 100 journalists were in the country during the election. The evaluation of these international organizations is optimistic, so that supports the Kyrgyz election from outside the country. For instance, the OSCE published a paper about the Kyrgyz election. “The 30 October presidential election was conducted in a peaceful manner, but shortcomings underscored that the integrity of the electoral process should be improved to consolidate democratic practice in line with international commitments. Candidate registration was inclusive, giving voters a wide choice, and the electoral campaign was open and respected fundamental freedoms. This was overshadowed by significant irregularities on Election Day, especially during the counting and tabulation of votes. Measures should be taken to improve voter lists, to amend electoral legislation and strengthen the polling process.”
The most important point of this election is that the willingness and bravery of Kyrgyzstan, which is called a “democracy island of Central Asia,” toward democratization. The other important point is the attendance rate of the Kyrgyz community. Although public apathy among Kyrgyz voters was expected, 60.27 percent of the voters attended the election. Kyrgyz overthrew Akaev in terms of the “Tulip Revolution” then Bakiev was taken down by the Kyrgyz public with a bloody ”revolution.” However, Roza Otunbayeva gave up her place in a democratic way to Almaz Atambayev, who is the fourth leader of Kyrgyzstan. Today, Kyrgyzstan is the first Central Asian country to have changed four leaders from the 1990s to 2011. On the other side, this election has significant aspects being an example of democratic practice in Central Asia. To sum up this experience, Bishkek should pull its weight first, and then determine a road map for democratization.