Ambiguity surrounding Kyrgyzstan elections raises fresh concern of instability
The Kyrgyz government Wednesday approved a controversial vote recount, raising the specter of fresh instability in a country whose political system has been shattered by two violent revolutions in barely five years.
Last weekend's parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan have been widely hailed as the cleanest and most fair in the tiny Central Asian country's troubled history.Skip to next paragraph
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But the polls' fractured and inconclusive result, which led the government Wednesday to approve a controversial vote recount, raises the specter of fresh instability in a country whose political system has been shattered by two violent revolutions in barely five years and whose social peace has been deeply shaken by bloody ethnic riots that killed hundreds in the country's volatile south last June.
A pledge to overturn the constitutional order
Just five out of 29 parties in the running managed to garner enough votes to hurdle the 5 percent barrier needed for representation in the new 120-seat legislature, which is expected to form a government and appoint a prime minister according to a new "parliamentary" constitution devised by interim president Roza Otunbayeva and passed in a national referendum last June.
But three of those 5 parties are in sharp opposition to Ms. Otunbayeva's interim government which, until the fractious parliamentary parties manage to cobble together a governing coalition – an uncertain prospect – is the only force capable of maintaining order in the country.
The election's front-runner, the southern-based Ata Zhurt party, is led by colleagues President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, ousted in a street revolt last April, who have pledged to overturn the new constitutional order and have dropped hints about bringing back Mr. Bakiyev from exile in Belarus.
"The situation is very unpredictable," says Alexander Kulinsky, press spokesman for the pro-government Ata-Meken Socialist party, which squeaked into parliament with 5.6 percent of the vote. "We've been talking about trying to form a coalition for the past two days, and the parties seem unable to come to any agreement."
The election result may appear more fair than it actually was
An even more immediate threat stems from the fact that none of the winning parties gained more than 9 percent popular support, and almost a third of ballots cast by Kyrgyz voters were given to parties that failed to make the 5 percent cut. On Wednesday Ms. Otunbayeva agreed to hold a recount of the votes after two losing parties challenged the official results and supporters of one, the small Batun-Kyrgyzstan party, briefly blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway – which runs across a high mountain pass and is the only artery that links the relatively prosperous north with the ethnically-diverse and impoverished south.
Though the election result was certified as free and fair by the 240-person monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and praised by US President Obama as showing "positive attributes of a genuine democracy," some experts now worry that the recounting could undermine that perception and deepen the credibility problems faced by the incoming parliament.