Wednesday, 16 January 2002

KYRGYZSTAN HOLDS LOCAL ELECTIONS

Published in Field Reports

By Gulzina Karim kyzy (1/16/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The elections to the posts of Head of Village and to town administrations were held in Kyrgyzstan on December 16 and 23. International observers from OSCE, and the American, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarus and Kazakh embassies as well as a number of international organizations took an active part in monitoring the elections.  

Local elections were first proposed by President Askar Akayev in an address to the public on December 12, 2000.

The elections to the posts of Head of Village and to town administrations were held in Kyrgyzstan on December 16 and 23. International observers from OSCE, and the American, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarus and Kazakh embassies as well as a number of international organizations took an active part in monitoring the elections.  

Local elections were first proposed by President Askar Akayev in an address to the public on December 12, 2000. Local experts claim that there are several reasons for this initiative. First, by holding local elections, the Kyrgyz government has tried to involve the public in the ‘democratic process’, as the public was disappointed with the last presidential elections.  Secondly, it is a good chance for Kyrgyzstan to restore its image as an ‘island of democracy’ in Central Asia.  Thirdly, the government tries to improve its relationship with the international community and international organizations, which have heavily criticized Kyrgyzstan for holding unfair and undemocratic parliamentary and presidential elections.  Judging by the initial reaction of the international community, the strategy seems to be working. On December 14, the Secretary General of the OSCE Jan Kubis approved of Kyrgyzstan’s initiative of holding local elections.  The Secretary General said that it was a good sign that the international community’s criticism brought positive results.

Since the last presidential elections the Kyrgyz government has been promising the OSCE and a number of other international organizations to promote democracy in the country. The president has asserted that the democratization of local self-governance is going to become a complex process which will mark the beginning of an administrative reform and will affect the general system of governance. The president hopes that as a result of the local elections, reform in the rural areas will speed up and the country will step to a new stage of struggle against corruption and organized crime.

The elections were held in two rounds. According to the Central Election Committee, 1,1 million people or 60,7% of electors voted in the first round. In total, 1,873 candidates ran for the 460 posts. 

Although the Central Election Committee claims that the local elections were held in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere, the elections have been highly criticized by the ‘Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society’.  The Coalition criticized the elections saying that they were held under strict government control. According to the Coalition, Kyrgyzstan did not meet its commitments before international organizations on holding free and fair elections. The Coalition criticized the election campaign as well.  At a news conference held in Bishkek on December 14 on preparations to the local elections, the President of the Coalition Tolekan Ismailova said that the election campaign was held under full control of the government authorities and that candidates supported by the government were given advantages over independent candidates. Ismailova added that the Central Election Committee failed to act as an independent body.  The Coalition claims that 514 independent observers who monitored the elections in 252 constituencies, as well as 4599 electors, can confirm that infringements took place in some polling stations.

According to the Regional Election Committee in the Jalal-Abad region, 65,5% of electors voted.  However, 55 coalition observers, who monitored the elections in Jalal-Abad, say that this figure is unreliable as, for example, in some constituencies of Suzak, Bazar-Korgon districts only ca. 35% of electors voted.  They also claim that serious violations took place in some constituencies of the region. In Bagysh village, the electors were offered vodka, food, or money in exchange for their votes. One electoral vote was reported to cost 50 Soms (ca. $1).However, the Central Election Committee refutes the Coalition’s criticism, saying that its reports do not correspond to reality. In an interview with RFE/RL, Central Election Committee official Tynybek Momunov said that the elections were competitive and people took an active part. However, Momunov also stressed the low level of citizens’ and candidates’ knowledge of law.  The official stressed the importance of raising this knowledge.  It is indeed important to raise it as it will not only increase certainty, transparency and reliability of the elections, but it will also facilitate the elimination of violations during elections.

Gulzina Karim kyzy

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