Following the southern parties’ victory, which are close to the president, in the Kyrgyzstan parliament elections on Oct 4, 2020, and the northern parties’ failure to enter the next parliament , the country dubbed as the land of revolution, democracy and freedom, once again, plunged into sectarian strife, settling accounts, political mayhem and power vacuum. The elections results were nulled; The government stepped down and the president resigned consequently. The next presidential elections are to be held on Jan 10, 2021. Also, there has not yet been decided on a date for parliamentary elections which is said are going to be held following constitutional reforms, in the first half of 2021.
The people of Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on October 4 amid economic and psychological pressure resulting from the corona pandemic, after one month of political challenges to elect 120 MPs. Of the 250 parties registered, 16 competed in the recent elections. Considering the required 7% quorum of the votes, in order for the parties to enter parliament, only four parties managed to obtain parliament seats, all the four of which were from the southern region and in a way close to the president SooronbayJeenbekov. A day after announcement of the primary results, protests erupted in Bishkek and northern cities. On Monday, the protesters gathered around the main square ( Ala Too square), also, people from other citiesincluding Talas moved toward the capital to join the protests. The number of the protesters , according to some media, amounted up to 20 thousands. After the protesters gathered in the Ala Too square, the party leaders made speeches and gradually some unknown protesters joined them and in the evening the protesters marched toward the presidential building (the white house) and the protests turned into scuffles with the police. After the scuffles began, the protesters scattered around the cityand attached some government buildings such as parliament and the state security committee. As a result of these skirmishes which lasted until dawn the presidential building was occupied, leaving one dead and about 600 injured. Among the parties participating in the elections, 11 parties joined the protests against the president. Having purposefully occupied the detention centers of the state security committees, people liberated SadyrJaparov one of the famous northern figures who was serving his prison sentence. He who had his supporters and a number of incumbent MPs backing him, claimed the position of prime minster. This was while the president who was positioned in an unknown place around the governmental domicile had not conceded the former prime minister’s resignation. News concerning the resignation and escape of former administrators and new appointments like the resignation of the joint chiefs of staff and head of the state security committees showed a vacuum of power. Each of the active parties, according to its interests, took stance and introduced its own candidates for key state positions. After intensifying alignments between the northern and southern residents of the country, while chanting slogans against corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power, the protesters asked for the annulment of the elections results and resignation of the president. Eventually, following intensification of the situation and the prospect of infighting between the groups and parties the president declared state of emergency in Bishkek. Although, declaration of state of emergency was opposed by some MPs and parties, by positioning military forces and equipment, asecurity atmosphere began to rule in Bishkek. Eventually, as a result of intensifying pressure and a prospect of intense infighting, the president signed the interim office of prime minister for Japarov and the parliament revoked the state of emergency, causing the president to resign, whose resignation was accepted by the incumbent parliament. Following disqualification of the president by the speaker of parliament, he took over both presidential and prime ministerial posts, as a result, the country faced a vacuum of power. At present, with the differences of opinion in the country as of yet no exact date for the new parliamentarian elections has been decided. Japarov has stated the new parliamentarian elections will be held , after constitutional reforms, in the first half of 2021 before June. Also the central commission for elections has announced the presidential election will be held on Jan 10 and the candidates for the post may register until the middle of November. Also, Japarov as one of the candidates, intends to participate in the presidential election, which due to its illegality ( as per the constitution any person serving as acting president is not allowed to be a candidate for the post) is a challenging issue in the future.
Roots of the Conflict
Politics in Kyrgyzstan , due to its sectarian context, is divided into two northern and southern spectrums. Since its independence in 1991, most of its domestic developments revolve around the president, his powers, and totally, around the political structure of this country. This issue arises from lack of a balanced division of power among existing ethnic groups in this country. Over the last 30 years , despite walking in the direction of democracy and creating a relatively open political atmosphere, Kyrgyzstan has not yet managed to exactly determine and implement its political system and structure. Although, as per the constitution, the political structure is parliamentarian and parliament must be the main decision maker , but in practice and execution, the system and structure of the country is presidential and the president is the main decision maker , the parliament being subordinate to the president. Therefore, the actions of the ruling spectrum are construed as settling accounts by the other spectrum. Firing or arresting the big figures of each spectrum, mostly due to corruption or abuse of power has been protested, paving the way for alternate uprisings. In recent elections, while a major party, the social democratic party of Kyrgyzstan , which one of its founders is Atambayev, currently in prison, and its regional base in northern regions, failed to obtain the quorum to enter parliament, but the two parties Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan, my homeland) and Birimedik ( meaning unity) managed to obtain the majority of the seats by support from the president’s close circle . As a result, a uniformed power makeup from the south in parliament and the government incited other political currents to protests.
Political Impacts of Kyrgyzstan’s Recent Developments
Repetition of revolutionary-like events in Kyrgyzstan has had profound impacts on the politics and the government in this country. Recent disputes will ever more widen the sectarian divide. Additionally, the efficiency of the legal and political structure , including the elections, has been shaken. People’s mistrust in the party system, parties and politicians has openly bubbled to the surface. Corruption and localism are among the major political hurdles so much so that Japarov has announced:” The root of corruption must be changed. There is no point imprisoning the corrupt and unconscionable entrepreneurs. At the end, the government will have to pay the costs of their imprisonment, millions of soms (Kyrgyzstan currency) in compensation, which with them being in prison there is no way paying for it.” Another part of the problems of Kyrgyzstan is the struggle for new appointments which will result in administrative instability in this country. As a whole, we are witnessing that mistrust in former figures and persons has caused an inclination for new and young figures in the current administration.
Economic Impacts of Recent Instabilities
Kyrgyzstan’s economy is faring badly, due to the recession caused by the corona and return of Kyrgyz Expatriates from abroad and its GDP has fallen 6% lower than expected. The corona death toll reached up to 1200 until November which is considered high compared to its 7 million population. Capital flight has been the thorniest problem in recent months which is to exacerbate following the October events. Some media have had news about millions of dollars fleeing and consequently arrests being made of some capital owners. at present, the government is faced with a serious problem for solving the budget deficit and securing current expenditures. Of 700 million dollars of foreign financial aid, about half has been received and as of yet there has been no action on the other half. In the midst of this, the costs of the protests and disputes are another overload for Kyrgyzstan’s weak economy. The costs of the elections, due to the annulment will be twice, amounting to one billion soms. The economic problems are so severe that the government does not have the required budget for reconstructing the presidential and parliament buildings which were destroyed during the protests
Recent Developments and Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Policy
Kyrgyzstan neighbors with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Polarization of the politics will negatively impact its relations with the neighboring states. Southern regions of Kyrgyzstan , due to economic and social problems will create security challenges for all central Asian states. Russia is an important partner for Kyrgyzstan in terms of economy and security. This country has military base and influence in Kyrgyzstan and maintains relations with Kyrgyzstan through various initiatives such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Economic Union, and Shanghai Pact. A vast number of Kyrgyzes work in Russia and Russia is the main trade and economic partner of Kyrgyzstan and has always had a part in the developments in Kyrgyzstan. For Japarov and any other administration, normalization of ties with Moscow is the top agenda as well as a social and economic propellant. The Russian president called recent developments in Kyrgyzstan a disaster. The UK ,too, due to its presence in the extraction of the gold mines and its export has influence and a part in the Kyrgyzstan developments. Kyrgyzes have asked for the return of the assets illegally transferred to London. China , as the largest provider of financial aid to Kyrgyzstan and as the leading money lender , is patiently watching the developments, in spite of negative propaganda against its activities in Kyrgyzstan. It is important for the US to control and constrain China. Some say the US embassy is one of the actors behind the curtains in the unrest in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan , as a member of the Eurasian Economic Unionand Shanghai Pact is very important to Iran, too. Kyrgyzstan can serve as a link connecting Iran to China through central Asia. Kyrgyzstan ‘s economic situation is in a shape that can provide good opportunities for the Iranian companies and investors for production and exportation of their products to the European and central Asian states. On the other hand, Iran’s routes can provide good opportunities for linking Kyrgyzstan to European and global markets. Iranian southern ports, especially Chabahar ports are a good opportunity for Kyrgyzstan which does not have access to free waters to use for imports and exports of its goods. Therefore, Kyrgyzstan’s domestic developments as a central Asian state are of importance for all regional and international players, including the Islamic Republic of Iran
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)