Kyrgyzstan’s 2020 Parliamentary Elections
From Ballot Boxes to Large-Scale Protests: The 2020 Kyrgyzstani Elections
Located in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic that gained independence with the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Bordered by three other post-Communist Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, the country has earned the name of an “island of democracy” in Central Asia. It has witnessed two revolutions in 2005 and 2010, both of which ended in the resignation of then presidents – Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev, respectively.
On October 4, 2020, Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections, preliminary results of which suggested that only four of the 16 competing parties obtained the national threshold of seven percent necessary to secure seats: Birimdik (Unity), Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland is Kyrgyzstan), the Kyrgyzstan Party, and Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan). It was argued that, with the exception of Butun Kyrgyzstan, all the other parties had close ties with the country’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov. OSCE (the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) assessed the elections as “generally well run,” but expressed serious concerns regarding the alleged “vote buying.”
Following the elections, on October 5, a large-scale protest broke out in the capital city of Bishkek that was dispersed by the police in the evening. However, demonstrators managed to storm the parliament building later that day. On October 6, shortly after President Jeenbekov’s promise to thoroughly investigate any electoral violations, the Central Election Committee invalidated the election results. Protests nonetheless did not cease, which led to Jeenbekov’s decision to resign on October 15. A week later, on October 22, the parliament adopted the bill according to which the do-over parliamentary elections will be held in early January 2021.
With Jeenbekov stepping down as president, Kyrgyzstan now has an interim government led by Sadyr Japarov, the latter serving both as president and prime minister. However, the political climate in the country is still tense as Japarov faces different low-level demonstrations instigated by urgent socio-economic and political issues such as current hold-ups on goods arriving from the neighbouring China, citizens’ dissatisfaction with the National Bank and planned changes to the constitution, as well as uncertainties brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With crises emerging in virtually all spheres, the main question that remains now is how will the interim government carry out the do-over parliamentary elections and help Kyrgyzstan maintain its status of an “island of democracy”?
Prepared by Tina Dolbaia
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