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Elezioni presidenziali in Kyrghyzstan

23 luglio 2009


Political analysts are predicting no surprises for Kyrgyzstan’s July 23 presidential election. The incumbent, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, is expected to secure reelection in a walk-over.

This presidential campaign has been Kyrgyzstan’s first election season in years without major political drama. Bakiyev entered the campaign holding an overwhelming resource advantage. Data released by the Central Election Commission on July 2 said Bakiyev’s war chest of 35 million soms (over $800,000) was almost nine times that of his closest rival.

Over 500 international observers have deployed throughout the country to monitor the voting. Approximately half the monitors are operating under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, while the others are sponsored by a variety of non-governmental organizations and multilateral groups, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. While there are concerns about the potential for irregularities, many experts believe that Bakiyev would very likely win a free and fair vote by a comfortable margin.

Independent political analyst Mars Sariev said Bakiyev has made good use of all the advantages of incumbency. “Bakiyev is visiting the regions; he is opening schools and hospitals and all of that is done with money from the state budget,” Sariev said. “At the same time, he is making a great PR campaign for himself.”

“The elections are preordained. . . . Even foreign policy at the moment is working for the benefit of Bakiyev,” Sariev continued, referring to Kyrgyzstan’s recent deal with the United States to prolong American access to Manas Air Base outside of Bishkek. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Dinara Oshurahunova from the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, a non-governmental election watchdog based in Bishkek, believes that the opposition’s slim hopes for making a mark depend on the level of voter fatigue. “I think opposition candidates have chances. Very little time was given [for campaigning], but all of them so far had the chance to visit the regions and meet with their electorate,” she said on July 20. “I think [the opposition] has support from the people who are tired of the current power and government.”

The incumbent’s campaign has relied heavily on billboards featuring slogans such as “Of course, Bakiyev,” and “Only Bakiyev” to relay a straightforward message of stability.

Bakiyev’s foremost challenger is Almazbek Atambayev — the head of the Social Democratic Party and a former prime minister – who has campaigned on a promise to dismantle the “clan system” of politics, which, he says, stimulates corruption. Taking a cue from the successful campaign of US President Barack Obama, one of Atambayev’s slogans is “Yes we can.” His small posters sport a graphic rendering of his face similar to the iconic image of Obama’s campaign.

Including Atambayev, there are five challengers in the field. Billboards and posters for one of the candidates, Jenishbek Nazaraliev, promise a payout of 100,000 soms to every family. Nazaraliev, who made his fortune operating a popular drug-rehabilitation clinic, caused a stir with a campaign pledge to seek the legalization of cultivation of opium poppies.

Other challengers include Toktaim Umetalieva, who is the only woman in the campaign field. She is a veteran non-governmental organization activist, and received less than 1 percent of the vote in the 2005 presidential election. Temir Sariev, meanwhile, is an entrepreneur who now heads the opposition Ak-Shumkar (White Falcon) party.

Some critics are questioning why some candidates are in the field at all. For example, Nurlan Motuev, who heads the Joomart Patriotic Movement, refused to engage Bakiyev in a radio debate, instead complimenting the president for his first term achievements. “Our [election] programs are largely similar, and we don’t have anything to argue about,” he said in early July, according to the AKIpress news agency. “We are like allies who have no disagreements between them. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to distract him from his duties.”


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