Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia

Kyrgyzstan’s Political Parties, Paperwork Problems, and a Looming Election

Seventeen parties submitted documentation to run candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election, set for October 4, but not all will get to run.

Catherine Putz
Kyrgyzstan’s Political Parties, Paperwork Problems, and a Looming Election
Credit: Flickr

Kyrgyzstan is inching toward an unpredictable parliamentary election, set for October 4. The last bureaucratic hurdle, the submission of documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to register lists of candidates, has generated some contention.

Per Kyrgyz law, parties aiming to participate in the upcoming election had to submit a raft of documents to election authorities by 6 p.m. on August 24. The documents include party lists of candidates, special forms with information about the candidates, and certification that the mandatory electoral deposit of 5 million Kyrgyz soms ($64,145) had been made — delivered by an authorized individual from the party to the election commission.

According to 24.kg, a Kyrgyz news website, 17 parties submitted documents to register to contest the election. Ata-Meken and Bir Bol — both in the present parliament — and the Mekenchil (Patriotic) party were the only parties to submit complete documentation. Thirteen parties, per the CEC, had “inconsistencies and violations” in their documents which they have 48 hours to correct. One party, the Kyrgyzstan party, has already been rejected by election officials for a rules violation.

The CEC has 10 days to review the submitted documents before the start of the official campaigning period, which runs from September 4 to October 3, the so-called day of silence before the October 4 polls.

The rejection of the Kyrgyzstan party has become a focus for media for two reasons. At first, media reported that the party’s representative was late with its documents. Other reports began to note, however, that the party’s documents were delivered in the nick of time by a man who was not an “authorized person” to do so. This latter complaint is what led the CEC to refusing to register the Kyrgyzstan party for the election, after other parties raised concerns about the violation of the rules.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The Kyrgyzstan party’s leader, Kanat Isaev (also spelled Kanatbek Isayev), told 24.kg that while he would not organize rallies he would appeal the CEC’s decision in court

The Kyrgyzstan party was founded by Isaev, who had previously been an MP for the Respublika party, in 2015 and nabbed 18 seats in that year’s parliamentary election. The party then joined the Social Democratic Party (SDPK)’s majority coalition.

Much has happened since.

As a 2016 article on Eurasianet noted, the Kyrgyzstan party was “widely thought to shadow [then-President Almazbek] Atambayev’s own Social Democratic Party.” That year, however, Isaev was opposed to constitutional amendments backed by Atambayev and in 2017 Isaev tried to make a run for the presidency but never made it to the ballot. He was faced with corruption charges and then arrested for an alleged plan to stage riots after the election. By January 2018 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption related to his 2008-2010 stint as mayor of Tokmok and was facing charges of attempting to seize power. The first case was terminated in the summer of 2018, apparently due to a statute of limitations issue, and the second vanished into the background of 2018’s other Kyrgyz political dramas. In December 2019, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court cleared Isaev officially of the corruption allegations.

That brings us to 2020 and another parliamentary election. Last month, when the date was officially set I called the field of parties “a confusing mess.” With a little more than a month to go to election day, no one is any wiser as to how it will turn out. The party with the most seats in the current parliament — SDPK with 38 — has undergone a series of splits. In essence, the feud between Atamabyev and his successor, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, has torn the party asunder. A version of the Social Democratic Party is contesting the upcoming election but it’s unclear if it can command the same vote share as before.

Despite some talk of potentially postponing the election on account of the coronavirus pandemic, the polls are going ahead as scheduled.

A recent tweet from AFP and Eurasianet’s Chris Rickleton sets the scene well: