BISHKEK (TCA) — The closer the autumn parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan, the more public debate about the creation of a new pro-government party, which will advance the interests of the authorities and possess financial and administrative resources.
Politicians mainly talk about the parties of Birimdik (Unity), Zamandash (Contemporary), and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland Kyrgyzstan). In Kyrgyzstan, parties have become an instrument of access to the Parliament.
The 2020 elections will be held in a crisis in large parties that have played the key role in recent years. For example, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) split into two parts — supporters and opponents of former President Almazbek Atambayev.
Disagreements also do not subside in the influential parliamentary factions, Respublika—Ata-Jurt (now these are two separate parties) and Ata Meken. Late in 2019, Ata Meken leader Almambet Shykmamatov announced his withdrawal from the party and surrendered his deputy mandate.
According to the Ministry of Justice, 255 political parties officially registered in Kyrgyzstan, including 14 new parties registered in 2019, and one in 2020.
The Jogorku Kenesh (unicameral parliament consisting of 120 deputies) is elected for five years. The last election was held in October 2015.
This year the sixth Parliament convocation is completing its work. The exact date of the election is still unknown. Presumably, it will be on October 4, 2020.
Is the Birimdik a party in power?
Local media reported that a new pro-government Birimdik party is already gathering prominent politicians. So far, all this is just rumors thrown to see the reaction of people and probe the team, and it is a time-tested classical political trick, expert Alisher Mamasaliev told VB.kg. The flagship of the pro-government party will appear closer to April, he added.
According to political analyst Marat Kazakpayev, the new Birimdik party has a great chance of joining the new parliament, especially if Asylbek Jeenbekov, the MP and the President’s younger brother, will be the party’s member.
The Birimdik party intends to participate in the 2020 parliamentary elections, but the party’s list has not yet been formed, said Ainuru Altybaeva, a well-known MP and one of this party’s founders. The final list of the party will be approved at its congress, the date of which has not yet been planned, Altybaeva told the media.
It is expected that not only individual politicians, but also parties will come to Birimdik. Altybaeva recalled that during the election campaign in 2010, seven parties and organizations came together, gaining 25% of the seats in the Parliament.
The electoral threshold is now higher than in the 2015 elections (in 2017, it was raised from 7% to 9%), so political associations will become a necessity.
The Birimdik political party was founded in 2005, and Altybaeva was among its founders. In 2010, Birimdik participated in the polls joining the Ar-Namys party. In 2019, Birimdik was re-registered, and SDPK member Marat Amankulov became its new leader.
Political analyst Ishenbai Kadyrbekov believes that the party which gains the majority of votes in the upcoming election will become the force that will govern Kyrgyzstan. There may be two parties as it was in 2015 when Atambayev simultaneously supported SDPK and Kyrgyzstan party, he added.
Progressive youth unites in a party
MP Janar Akayev wrote on his page on social networks in January that he has created a new party, whose members are young and progressive people. Among them are ex-deputy economy minister Eldar Abakirov and political scientist Seitek Kachkynbay.
“I urge you to join us all who want to build a new and honest Kyrgyzstan,” he wrote.
Janar Akayev was the press secretary of the former President Almazbek Atambayev, and previously — a journalist for Azattyk (Liberty) Radio. In 2015, he ran for Parliament from the SDPK list. In 2017, he was expelled from the faction.
The Bir Bol political party will also be replenished with young candidates, its leader Altynbek Sulaimanov believes.
In Kyrgyzstan, the concept of “young politician” is vague. Formally, a politician under 35 is considered young. In the current Jogorku Kenesh, there are about 10% of such politicians, with a recommended norm of 15%.
Many call Omurbek Babanov, former co-chair of Respublika—Ata-Jurt, a young politician, although he will turn 50 this year.
The election outcome can be significantly affected by the election threshold. According to the current legislation, to get seats in Parliament, parties must gain at least 9% of the total votes.
The established threshold and the amount of the deposit cause a lot of controversy. Many political parties that do not have large funds and cannot rely on an administrative resource are interested in lowering this threshold.
Three bills on lowering the electoral threshold are currently under consideration in Parliament.
MP Iskhak Masaliyev (Onguu-Progress) is among the authors of a bill that suggests reducing the electoral threshold from 9% to 5%.
For parties that do not have much money, the Parliament will be closed, Masaliyev said, adding that the bill also provides for a decrease in the electoral deposit from five million soms to one million.
MP Natalya Nikitenko (Ata Meken) also proposed to lower the threshold to 5%, saying that this is optimal for developing a parliamentary democracy that requires support and appropriate measures from the state.
MP Umbetaly Kydyraliev (Respublika—Ata-Jurt) proposed restoring the previous electoral threshold of 7%. A threshold of 9% was set to ensure the strengthening of political parties, but there have been major changes within political parties, and there is a risk that many of them will not overcome this threshold, he explained.
Some MPs support the existing electoral threshold because, first, it encourages parties to unite, and second, new people will come to Parliament. MP Saydulla Nyshanov (Ata Meken) proposes to increase the electoral threshold to 10%, "if we want to create a parliamentary country".
Elections in recent years were characterized by indifferent attitudes of voters both to the process and to the election results, experts and sociological studies say.
First of all, it affects the low voter turnout. Therefore, in the upcoming elections, the parties will fight for votes in each region much harder.
People realized that campaign promises did not affect their quality of life. All parties promised to fight corruption and unscrupulous officials, advocated for the rule of law and the independence of judges.
All parties pledged to make Kyrgyzstan strong, stable and prosperous. Electricity should be inexpensive, as there is a lot of water in the country. They also promised new mortgage terms for Kyrgyz citizens and much more. However, all these pledges were not kept. As a result, political parties completely lost the people’s confidence.
The traditional mobilization of party activists, especially in the regions, will cease to be successful, experts say. The local population will seize the moment and try to obtain, if not large, but feasible improvements in its life. Parties will have to meet the population’s demands before the election because nobody now believes empty promises.
Struggle for money
MP Altynbek Sulaimanov, the leader of the Bir Bol (Be Together) parliamentary faction, advised Kyrgyz citizens to sell their votes not for one thousand soms, as it often happened before, but for 10-20 thousand.
The MP calculated that an MP mandate used to cost $300 thousand during the previous election would cost $3 million this autumn.
"Voters will punish oligarchs, and this will help smart and educated people come to Parliament," he concluded. How “smart and educated people” will enter the Parliament in this situation, he did not explain.
The pre-election race requires large expenses from political parties. This does not necessarily mean that parties bribe voters.
It’s not a secret that an election program or platform is the external side of the elections in Kyrgyzstan. Voters are tired of the programs, similar to each other, that have never been realized.
The campaign largely depends on how much a party spends on creating public opinion and on the activities of campaigners.
In the parliamentary elections of 2015, Respublika—Ata-Jurt received 20.13% of the votes. The Central Election Commission allocated 28 mandates to this party, noting that it spent the most on the election campaign, collecting 131.5 million soms in the election fund and spending 130 million soms.
The Onuguu-Progress party ranked second in the use of funds in 2015. Accordingly, it also received votes.
At the same time, the pro-presidential SDPK party spent less money but received the majority of votes due to the administrative resource.
The 2020 parliamentary election will also be a struggle for money, not for programs. Parties that will spend more money on campaigning will go to Parliament. Those who will spend less could lose the election.