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Kyrgyzstan’s political parties prepare for elections
Pending local elections are said to be ‘strategically important’ to politicians.
By Asyl Osmonaliyeva
BISHKEK – Kyrgyz politicians and parties are preparing for the November 25 local elections as political parties had to submit the necessary electoral documents for hopeful candidates to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) by October 25.
Elections will take place in 25 cities and 416 localities, according to the CEC. But most analysts agree the top prize for parties will be Bishkek.
In line with the amended “On Elections to the Local Councils” law, only party-nominated candidates will be eligible to run for city councils, but candidates for village councils will be free to compete even without a party nomination.
Council seats will be distributed to parties winning at least 7% of the vote, according to official sources. If no political party surpasses this threshold, the three leading parties will share the seats.
Democratic process ‘a must’
Various politicians have made public calls for transparency, with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, the founder of the Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), appearing on TV October 5 in a call for honest local elections.
First Vice-Premier Dzhoomart Otorbayev, too, hopes transparency and democracy will prevail.
“The main thing is to ensure the people's voice is heard and that they elect worthy candidates who have not lied to them in the past,” he said.
Bishkek elections expected to be ‘heated’
Bishkek is viewed as important for the parties because its council members gain higher visibility across the country.
“It's in Bishkek that the bulk of administrative, political and financial resources is concentrated; so he who takes the capital will take the entire country,” independent analyst Mars Sariyev said, adding that he expects the city’s elections to be “heated.”
With 45 Bishkek council seats up for grabs, the party collecting the largest number of votes will have the right to form a coalition and select the mayor.
Fifteen parties have registered for city council elections in the capital so far, and more may register yet, CEC member Zharkyn Bapanova said. “Political parties see local elections as a kind of springboard, or a rehearsal, for their regional branches to push nominees into the Zhogorku Kenesh (national parliament),” Development Institute Executive Chairwoman Nadezhda Dobretsova said. “We have nothing against party-based elections to local councils, but we also want to see alternative candidates running.”
The parliamentary parties have “very impressive resources” at their disposal, Sariyev said, adding that, if the Respublika Party nominated Omurbek Babanov, his chances to win would be very high.
“As a recent ex-prime minister, Babanov has the political, administrative and financial potential required to win the race,” he said.
So far, however, none of the parliamentary parties except Ar-Namys has named its candidates. Ar-Namys’ top nominee is Gen. Omurbek Suvanaliyev, nicknamed “Commissioner Cattani” (after the hero of the Italian cop show “La Piovra”). Political scientist Marat Kazakbayev said his nomination is “the right step” for Ar-Namys.
The SDPK, Respublika and a few other parliamentary parties are capable of breaching the 7% threshold for earning city council seats, Kazakbayev said. Zamandash and Ak-Shumkar – two parties without parliamentary representation – “have some chances, too,” he added.
Dobretsova said newer parties have a chance at getting seats, but most such candidates are at a disadvantage because they are not well-known.
“Many voters are likely to vote, as they did before, for candidates with highly familiar names on the party lists, rather than looking at their campaign platforms and analysing what specific results they can be expected to deliver,” she said.
Regional elections important, too
While village council elections are not expected to be as intense as those in the capital, the forthcoming vote is the talk of the day there, too.
Campaigning has not started yet, but voters are actively discussing the election at markets, in stores and in public institutions, Azimdzhan Bekpalat, an analyst for the think tank Region, said.
Local elections are important to people, because the candidates are nearer to the voters. And, because they live in the constituencies that they are vying to represent, would-be deputies are familiar with the problems they'll be expected to tackle, he said.
Aisulu, a resident of Orlovka village, Kemen District, said she would certainly vote.
“These elections will be very important for us,” she said. “At least I can recognise (the names of) many of the candidates. It’s not like the parliamentary elections. These people are closer to us, and it's on them that we're pinning our hopes.”