Crossroads Asia

Parties Merge in Kyrgyzstan, Hoping to Get an Electoral Edge

The leaders of three parties say they’re joining forces in the upcoming election.

Parties Merge in Kyrgyzstan, Hoping to Get an Electoral Edge
Credit: Catherine Putz

As Kyrgyzstan works its way toward election day — about two months away — the field of candidates will begin to narrow. Last week, when the deadline to file passed, there were 59 people who had declared their intention to pursue the presidency and begun the necessary registration process.

The final list of candidates will be set by September 10.

In batches, the prospective candidates have begun to take the state language exam and submit documentation of obtaining at least 30,000 signatures in support.

Temir Sariyev, a former prime minister and first to declare his intention to run for the presidency, was reportedly the first to complete all the required registration steps, gathering more than 60,000 signatures and passing the Kyrgyz test.

Omurbek Tekebayev, stuck in pre-trial detention as the state’s corruption case against him proceeds, would seem to be practically out of the running. He cannot take the language exam from the detention center, and the Central Election Commission seems unlikely to grant an exception. A district court refused to take up the matter, saying it was the CEC’s issue — the ping-ponging of the issue will end with Tekebayev out of the running, if a conviction (which seems likely) doesn’t get there first. Another candidate — Sadyr Japarov — has had his trial conclude with a conviction, taking him out of the running, too.

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Supporters of Omurbek Babanov delivered boxes of signatures, reportedly more than 100,000, to the CEC. The crew was decked in neon yellow hats and shirts with Babanov’s face on them. Babanov is technically an “independent” though he heads the Respublika-Ata-Jurt faction in parliament. (The Respublika-Ata-Jurt merger, ahead of the 2015 parliamentary election, fell apart last year but the faction remains together in parliament).

Beyond the whittling of candidates by tests and signatures, the fluid nature of Kyrgyz politics is condensing the field already. Of the 11 candidates put forward by political parties, four have announced that their three parties will join together. According to RFE/RL, representatives of three parties —  Onuguu-Progress, Mekenim-Kyrgyzstan, and Ata-Jurt — said they would create a new party. Onuguu-Progress’s leader Bakyt Torobayev,  Mekenim-Kyrgyzstan’s Adakhan Madumarov, and the co-chairs of Ata-Jurt, Akmatbek Keldibekov and Kamchybek Tashiev, had all filed to run for the presidency. The new as-yet unnamed party, will field one candidate; who that candidate will be hasn’t been announced.

This consolidation illustrates the young nature of Kyrgyz party politics. Whereas in many other countries established parties usually have clear distinctions on core policy issues, Kyrgyzstan’s party field is a bit more fluid and personality-driven. If the three parties can settle on a single, compelling, candidate they certainly hope to have enough supporters to push past all the other challengers. It’s still very much anyone’s game and this is one gambit to push ahead of the crowd.