BACKGROUND: According to the new Parliamentary Election Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, fifteen seats from a total of sixty are allocated to political parties and movements in the Legislative Assembly. At least 5% of the votes must be won in order to get a seat. The remaining forty-five seats in the Legislative Assembly are allocated to members of the Assembly of Peoples Representatives. The Central Election Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic announced that more than 1.6 millions people took part in the elections, about 65% of the registered total number of voters. This is a strong indication of political activism in the population. The growing political literacy among the population will significantly affect the Kyrgyzstans political orientation in the future.
The Kyrgyzstan elections were relatively fair and free, especially when compared to the other recent elections throughout Central Asia. The presidential elections in Uzbekistan were so undemocratic that they did not even merit OSCE observers. As for the elections in Turkmenistan, the European Community refused to send observers. In contrast to these elections, a massive corps of OSCE international observers monitored the whole process of elections in Kyrgyzstan and declared " the electoral processes were held according to the norms and demands of the legislation."
For the first time in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic, the political parties represent diverse interests and constituencies of the population. The six leading parties split the votes as follows: the Communist Party 27,9%; the pro-government "Union of Democratic Forces" 18.6%; President Akaevs "Democratic Party of Women of Kyrgyzstan" 12,6%; the "Party of Veterans of the Afghanistan War" 8%; the Socialist left wing party "Ata-Meken" 6.5%; and the right wing party "My Country" 5.8 %. In an election where the Communist Party received the most votes, and perhaps because of that, the "island of democracy" continues to prove itself to be a legitimate democracy, an open society still attractive to the Western community. As the Communist Party might say, "democracy works."
IMPLICATIONS: The Communist Party won the majority of votes in the parliamentary election and will take a leading role in Kyrgyzstan politics and among the people. However, even though the Communist Party won the majority of votes, based on the system that seats are distributed, the Communists only gained five seats from the fifteen allotted to political parties out of the sixty total seats in the Legislative Assembly. Consequently, its influence will not be strong enough to significantly change Kyrgyzstan. This is good news for President Akaev, especially given the Communist Partys desire to reestablish the USSR and its irreconcilable opposition towards President Akaevs policies. The Communist victory certainly presents a serious challenge to Kyrgyzstans democracy, however it is unlikely to bring a reversion to the USSRs past totalitarian ways.
A guerrilla movement in the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border areas has developed strength and poses another serious challenge as it has undermined peace in Kyrgyzstan. This instability certainly assisted the Communist election victory. The unstable situation has shown Kyrgyzstans clear inability to combat the growing destabilization in the country and throughout the other Central Asian states. Russias presence, leadership and influence in Central Asia are an obvious imperative for regional stability. Kyrgyzstan is now heavily dependent on Russia to support its national economy and security. The Kyrgyzstan leadership entirely supports the resolute turn by the present Russian leadership towards ensuring stability and peace in Central Asia. Although the Kyrgyzstani Communists advocate Kyrgyzstan joining a union with Russia and Belarus, this is as unlikely as it is infeasible. It is difficult to gauge the extent that such a union is even necessary. Their social and economic systems, market system approaches, and integration into the world community differ distinctly from those of Kyrgyzstan.
It is crucial to Kyrgyzstan, however, to link its interests with the interests of Russia and to have Russia assist Kyrgyzstan be free of external and internal threats. Russia provides a wedge against possible aggressive acts by Kyrgyzstans Central Asian neighbors. Uzbekistan continues to assert its leadership role in Central Asia with increasing intensity, carrying out actions that intimidate not only Kyrgyzstan but other Central Asian states as well. Kyrgyzstan viewed Uzbekistans attempt to undertake unilateral demarcation along its southern border with Kyrgyzstan was viewed as a hostile, illegitimate violation of Kyrgyzstans territorial integrity. Meanwhile, China is likely to be a good neighbor to Kyrgyzstan. As a member of "The Shanghai Five" declaration, China recognized the importance of fighting terrorists, separatists, and religious militants. However, Chinas massive power is an external threat over the long-term.
CONCLUSION: Kyrgyzstans present is rather ambiguous. Although Russia is a logical partner for security and economic cooperation in Kyrgyzstan and the entire Central Asia region, Kyrgyzstan needs Western capital to survive and must prove its democratic legitimacy to Western countries to secure their assistance for the economic and social development of the country. The positive response of international observers to the first round of elections will do much to further attract Western donors as it upheld Kyrgyzstans credibility as the "island of democracy" in Central Asia.
Kyrgyzstan will continue to launch a Western style of democracy to attract western capital and support but must intensify its work to carry out the basic principles of freedom of speech and its support for human rights. This could become increasingly difficult should guerilla fighters cause the government to undertake harsh suppression measures among its own population. The victory of the Communist Party in the parliamentary election has sent a warning to the international community even though the victory will not translate into much power. Can Kyrgyzstan remain a credible "island of democracy" after an election in which the Communist Party won a majority of votes? If there ever was the time for President Akaev to inspire international confidence in Kyrgyzstans democracy through securing freedom of speech and upholding human rights, that time is now.
AUTHOR BIO: Gulsara Osorova was a consultant for the Department for International Legislative Assembly in the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic. She is currently undertaking graduate studies in International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of Birmingham, England.
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