The first issue of our MedEye VIP (Very Important Politicians) Digest will focus on the forthcoming presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan (the Kyrgyz Republic), to be held on 30 October 2011.20 candidates out of 83 registered met the requirements to run in these elections but 4 withdrew during the electoral campaign. However, only a few of them have real chances to go ahead in the electoral process. According to the new constitution of the first parliamentary republic of Central Asia, the next president of Kyrgyzstan will be elected for a six-year mandate and will not be allowed to run again for another term. The current president, Roza Otunbayeva, native of Osh but whose political strongholds are mainly in the North, will step down in December 2011. She became president after the overthrown of Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s regime following the April 2010 revolution.
The current coalition of government is made up of three parties: Ata Zhurt (Motherland), mostly based in the South, nationalistic and right-wing, winner of the latest parliamentary elections; the Social Democratic Party, and Respublika. The prime minister was, until September when he resigned for the electoral campaign, Almazbek Atambayev.
The turnout in the 2010 parliamentary elections was low (56.59%), above all if compared to the standards for elections in the region and to the previous Kyrgyz parliamentary elections. Many Uzbeks, after the violence and the clashes, did not vote. It is likely that many Uzbek voters will avoid to vote also this time. Below, the brief political bio of the three most important candidates, largely considered those with real chances at least to get access to the second round of voting. The turnout of the vote in this occasion is expected to stand at about 70%.
The three main candidates for this ballot are:
ALMAZBEK ATAMBAYEV: 55 years old, he is the leader of the Social Democratic Party. Originally from the northern region of Chui. He is by no means the favourite runner for Presidency and the only candidate with some real chances to secure victory in the first round. He resigned from the position of Prime Minister at the beginning of the electoral campaign, after serving in this position since December 2010. He has a long political career: he ran twice for Presidency, the first time was in 2000, when he won 6% of the vote and the second one was in 2009, when he quit the competition on the day of the elections, complaining about irregularities and frauds.
The social bloc he represents is mainly based in the northern regions of the country, as he is very strong in the areas of Naryn, Talas, Issyik-kul and Chui and has also a rather good support in Bishkek. At the moment, he is the only candidate who has more than 10% of potential support in all the regions of the country and the most trusted among politicians in Kyrgyzstan. However, given the risks of disintegration of the country along its geopolitical North-South cleavage, he has tried to base his campaign on his commitment to reduce the impact of this geo-political cleavage and maintain the country united, although he is not as harsh as the other two candidates in its nationalistic rhetoric. Likely, this milder and moderate profile could help him to get some votes also from the Russian and Uzbek minorities.
He is considered a pro-business figure and has a strong support in the economic and industrial establishment, which are mainly based in the north. There are allegations that the withdrawal of Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the moderate-leftist and southern Ata Meken (Fatherland) was due to the likely support of Tekebaev for Atambayev. In foreign policy, he has a strong and durable relationship with the Russian leadership. His message and his commitment to keep the country united is considered fundamental in Moscow’s view, as Russia fears the possible disintegration of Kyrgyzstan.
KAMCHIBEK TASHIYEV: 42 years old, one of the most important MPs in the Kyrgyz Parliament, he is the leader of Ata Zhurt. He is originally from the southern town of Jalalabad, the city in which clashes between Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks erupted in May 2010. Yhis area remains its main political stronghold, but he is generally strongly rooted in the three southern regions, as his support is rather strong in the regions of Djalal-Abad, Batken and Osh while his support in the northern region is almost inexistent, and only a few small groups of harsh nationalists in these areas support him. The social bloc backing him is made mostly of supporters of former President Bakyev, whose Tashiyev was a strong ally.
Owner of a chain of petroleum stations, he was minister for the emergencies under Bakyev in 2007. He is characterized by a harsh nationalist rhetoric and he can be considered a right-winger in terms of political culture and ideology, as his main electoral slogan was “Law and order are the foundation for development” and he showed off in police uniform on the posters for the electoral campaign.
He had a very critical attitude toward the new parliamentary institutional arrangement of the Kyrgyz Republic, as he supports a more resolute presidential model. He was also very critical of the post-Bakyev government, criticizing the cabinet of Otunbayeva, blaming the government for ethnic clashes erupted in 2010. Shortly after the parliamentary elections won by his party, he accused the security service concerning an attempt to kill him in his Bishkek house.
ADAKHAN MADUMAROV: 46 years old. Originally from the area of Osh, he is the leader of Butuk Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan). He was the “great loser” of the latest parliamentary elections. His party was created just a few months before the parliamentary elections of 2010 but it did not reach the threshold needed to seize seats in the Kyrgyz parliament. He is originally from the South as well, and his main stronghold is the Batken region, where about one/third of the voters should vote for him. His social bloc is similar to those of Tashiev and his appeal in the northern region is almost inexistent. Notably, he is supported by Ahmatbek Keldibekov, speaker of the parliament and an important member of Ata Zhurt, considered to be the main internal political rival of Tashiev within their party.
Sources: Reuters, Jamestown Foundation, 24kg, IPP-KG, M-Vector, IWPR, OSCE, Times of Central Asia, NewEurasia, The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, Idea.Int, RFE/RL, Eurasia.Net, Central Asia Newswire.