Dozens of opposition supporters have rallied in the center of the Kyrgyz capital calling for new parliamentary elections after preliminary results showed three pro-government parties winning the vote.
The protesters gathered in front of the Central Election Commission’s (BShK) offices in Bishkek on November 29 after four opposition parties that didn’t pass the 5 percent threshold accused the commission of fraud and demanded that the election results be annulled. Many protesters raised concerns after an automated count of the November 28 vote was apparently hit by technical issues. A tabulation monitor at the BShK showed several parties on track to win seats suddenly fall below the 5 percent barrier. BShK Chairwoman Nurjan Shaildabekova and her team told the demonstrators that the malfunction was not intentional and did not affect the results.
International observers said the elections were “competitive” and proceeded largely successfully but were marred by a lack of voter engagement, among other things. According to preliminary results announced by the BShK, the Ata-Jurt party received 16.83 percent of the vote, the Ishenim (Trust) party had 13.6 percent, and the Yntymak (Harmony) party took 10.96 percent. Three other parties were expected to take parliamentary seats -- the new Alyans (Alliance), the opposition Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan, and Yiman Nuru (Ray of Faith). Four opposition parties -- Ata-Meken (Fatherland), Azattyk (Liberty), Social Democrats, and Uluttar Birimdigi (Unity of Ethnicities) -- failed to pass 5 percent threshold. The elections were held under a mixed electoral system, with 54 parliamentary seats out of 90 being selected from open party lists in one nationwide constituency.
In its preliminary assessment, the joint observation mission led by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said Kyrgyzstan’s “constitutional changes weakening parliament, subsequent extensive legislative changes to key aspects of the elections, a stifled campaign, and overall voter disillusionment hindered meaningful engagement.”
Fundamental freedoms were “generally respected” during the campaign, voters “had a wide range of political options to choose from,” and “technical aspects of the elections were handled by the election administration in an efficient way,” it said. However, most media outlets “were reticent to cover activities of contestants, while the regular activities of the president and authorities were extensively covered, limiting voters’ ability to make an informed choice,” the assessment concluded. The observers also said “significant procedural problems were noted during the vote count and the initial stages of tabulation.” In two Bishkek districts, most of the voters chose none of the parties and candidates, prompting election authorities to announce a new vote in these two districts. Kyrgyzstan adopted a new constitution in a referendum in April that lowered the number of seats in parliament from 120 to 90 and changed the system of voting for candidates, with 54 seats being selected by party list and the remaining 36 in single-mandate districts. The elections were a repeat of the failed parliamentary vote held in October last year that was quickly annulled by the BShK amid chaotic protests over alleged campaign violations and unfair voting practices. Street protests have sparked government ousters three times in the past two decades, including after disputed parliamentary elections last year that swept the current president, Sadyr Japarov, to power after he was sprung from prison. Japarov organized a presidential election and concurrent referendum changing the constitution to grant more power to the presidency, in a move critics say amounted to a power grab.