How Kyrgyzstan Is Choosing Its New President

Kursiv reveals some details

On January 10, 2021 Kyrgyzstan has held early presidential elections as well as a plebiscite on the form of state rule in the country. However, there was a low turnout on elections with no intrigue. 

Low interest in politics

Two out of three voting stations in the village Luxemburg, which is located 25 kilometers away from the country’s capital Bishkek, were opened in a three-story school building. When you look at old brick walls and wooden, not plastic windows you can easily understand that it was built many years ago.

To enter voting station No. 7139, voters should pass a guard who checks the temperature of anyone who enters the station and makes sure that there is no crowd inside.

«Use hand sanitizer. If you need a face-mask you can get it inside,» he has been saying to everyone.

However, despite the significance of the event, there was no crowd at all either outside or inside the voting station. According to election officials, this year the voter turnover is extremely low. 

«I’ve been working in the electoral commission for several years. Usually, voters make our station crowded twice a day: in the morning and at night. Today it’s different. We’ve seen just a few people,» said Alymbyubyu Amanaliyeva, head of the voting station No.7139.

Hanns Seidel Foundation representative in Central Asia Max Georg Mayer, who had been planning to visit several voting stations in the Chu region, also noticed the low turnover. At the same time, he noted that this year the electoral system has used some new technology.

«The equipment of the voting stations meets all international requirements. It’s absolutely the same as the election tools in Germany. And as I can see, the members of the commission were well-prepared to work with such equipment,» Mayer told Kursiv edition in an interview.

For example, all ballot boxes in the voting rooms are automatic. The identification of the voters in Kyrgyzstan is also automated. It means that only those who have submitted their biometric data to the system can participate in the elections. In theory, these measures should make the whole electoral process as simple and fair as possible.

However, in real life technology can fail sometimes and is too sophisticated for elderly people that are the most disciplined voters, the election system officials noted. Often such voters need help from members of the electoral commission: they explain what to do and how to do it, and in some cases personally drop ballots into the boxes even though this is a violation of the rules. 

One of the presidential candidates, Adakhan Madumarov, leader of the opposition party Butun Kyrgyzstan, personally faced this trouble. When he voted at one of the voting stations in Bishkek, he couldn’t send his ballot in the ballot box, and only his fifth attempt was successful.

No Form No. 2 

Vice Prime Minister Elvira Surabaldiyeva voted on voting station No. 1209 in Bishkek Lyceum No. 5. The ex-first lady of the country Raisa Atambayeva also voted here, but in contrast with the vice prime minister voting, there were no journalists or photo reporters at that moment. 

Surabaldiyeva came to the station in the afternoon when just 10% of all voters in Kyrgyzstan expresses a desire to vote. «This is the real picture of voting activity in the country,» she said. As the official noted, the low turnover is a result of the removal of Form No. 2.

In October 2020, Zhogorku Kenesh (parliament) deputies were forced to cancel voting in regions other than where the voter lives; therefore, the relevant application or Form No. 2 no longer works. For the first time this practice was introduced at the presidential elections of 2011 to let people vote even if they left their home region because of the high rate of migration. However, later this form became a tool for fraud, for instance, to make an election carousel. 

Thus on October 4, when the parliamentary elections were held in Kyrgyzstan, this form was used by half a million voters that spurred a wave of doubts in the fairness of elections, forced people to take to the streets and resulted in the change of government. 

According to Igor Shestakov, a local political scientist from Kyrgyzstan, the decrease in political activity might be explained by several factors:

«First of all, people are strongly frustrated. Last year when many waited for help amid the pandemic the government failed to deliver it, so people have just learned to live on their own. The second reason is poor outreach for people. As far as I remember, this is the first campaign where 90% of the drive was devoted to one candidate (Sapar Zhadyrov) and 10% of efforts shared between other candidates. The third reason, there were not as many paying-for-votes cases as was reported in October,» the expert said to

The voter turnover is important because this time Kyrgyzstan voted not only for a new president but also for a form of state rule. These were elections and a plebiscite at the same time. While Kyrgyzstani legislation doesn’t set the minimal turnover for parliamentary or presidential elections, it does it for plebiscites. It would be recognized as successful only if no less than 30% of voters participate.

The final status of the plebiscite was the only intrigue at this election. It disappeared in the evening when 33% of voters participated.

No more protests?

According to preliminary reports, Sadyr Zhaparov might be called as the new president of the Kyrgyz Republic with the result of 79.4% of votes. Adakhan Madumarov is the second, having received just 6.61% of votes.

As independent expert Mars Sariev said, this is not a big surprise:

«Many experts predicted that Zhaparov can gain not less than 60% of votes and that people will choose the presidential form of state rule. Sadyr Zhaparov has huge support from the regions and today there is no other candidate with similar popularity. The elections were good with no scandals. I don’t think we should expect any protests. In the spring or the summer after parliamentary elections, there can be some protests, but not now,» the expert explained.

As the preliminary elections results were published, it became known that several presidential candidates, including Adakhan Madumarov and Abdil Segizbayev (ex-chairman of the State Committee for National Security), did not recognize the results of the vote. However, they are not going to organize rallies on this occasion.

According to Igor Shestakov, after the elections Sadyr Zhaparov and his team will be fully responsible for the situation in the Kyrgyz Republic. Flexibility and readiness of the new president to cooperate with other political forces peacefully will be the key.

«A huge burden of problems will fall on the President of Kyrgyzstan. Will he be able to unite all internal political forces around himself, as Almazbek Atambayev did in 2011, or not? This will determine the future. Also, it is extremely important how the new president will work with external partners. Today Kyrgyzstan has no resources and the republic needs financial assistance from donors,» Shestakov said.

In general, the presidency of Kyrgyzstan sought 17 candidates, although 18 names were indicated on the ballot. Ex-deputy of the Kyrgyzstan parliament Rashid Tagaev withdrew his candidacy from the race on December 30. As he stated, his personal beliefs prevented him from continuing his election campaign.

Among the presidential candidates are several former ministers, the ex-head of the State Committee for National Security, former deputies, entrepreneurs, one ex-judge of the Constitutional Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic (the only female candidate), as well as a man who proclaimed himself as a god.

From the very beginning of the campaign, Sadyr Japarov, who was released from jail during the riots that followed the parliamentary elections in October, has been considered its leader.  

Japarov was sentenced to jail in 2017 for organizing a rally in Karakol (northern part of the country) in 2013 demanding the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine. He was also accused of taking Emilbek Kaptagaev as a hostage.  At that period, he served as the governor of the Issyk-Kul region.

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