In his interview to EADaily Kyrgyz political expert, economist Kubat Rakhimov says that the past parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan were highly competitive and may become a stimulus for the country’s neighbors - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. However, the question is what the elected deputies will prefer to do: to solve their personal problems or to try to solve the numerous problems of their country.
How would you qualify the past parliamentary elections? Were they democratic? Were there any surprises?
They were really unique. It was the second time we witnessed truly competitive elections. In fact, Kyrgyzstan has served as an example for its neighbors. Despite the anti-American rhetoric of some Kyrgyz leaders, we have witnessed elections held in full accordance with instructions of western political supervisors. And this is not some national specific “sovereign” democracy, but a genuine western-type democracy. This may become a teaser for the neighbors - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and lets us hope for democratic change in their societies, for instance, they may turn into parliamentary-presidential republics.
One of the key features of the elections was biometric registration. It was a novelty but it was not very effective as many voters (mostly gastarbeiters in Russia and Kazakhstan) were not identified by the system and were not able to vote. Those people were attached to ballot stations at embassies and consulates but not all of them work in cities with embassies and consulates. As a result, just 517 Kyrgyz voted in Moscow.
Perhaps, it was not manipulation but just incompetence. The system applied during the elections was not efficient enough. As a result, many voters were not able to vote. Just one example, my family consists of nine people but only three of them were able to vote.
The final statistics are a bit puzzling. The parties that failed to enter the parliament polled just 8,000-10,000 votes – much too small a number for being real. In Asia, candidates have lots of relatives, friends, neighbors, their relatives. An average Kyrgyz candidate can get as many as 2,000 votes. So, it looks really strange when a party having 100 candidates gets just 10,000 votes.
Unfortunately, the rule of that game was like “who has more money will play.” The trump of the ruling Social Democrats was their administrative resource (municipalities, military units, schools and universities). As a result, they have formed a parliament that will work for the next presidential election. But this victory may prove to be Pyrrhic for them as in the new parliament they have just 38 MPs (just 12 more than in the previous one).
Do you mean they have no majority?
Yes, I do. They have just 38 seats, their clone party, Kyrgyzstan, has 18 seats, while for a majority they need as many as 61 seats. The other forces are now haggling with them for loyalty. But in reality nothing has changed. We still have to look for compromises. We still need reforms.
There is one interesting moment here: all of the 14 parties that ran in the elections were pro-Russian. There was no single pro-Western or pro-Islamic party. I would prefer having them on the surface rather than in the shadow. Today, we have just an illusion of balance. It would be much better for us if all of our political forces were visible.
With all of its defects, the new parliament will hopefully be able to form a normal government - a cabinet that will act rather than just promise. But there may also be a different scenario – when the parties will start fighting for a place in the ruling coalition and for the right to have an own candidate during the next presidential election.
Can the results of the elections provoke any internal political instability?
Such instability could be provoked by the failure of the Bir Bol and Ata Meken parties. But they have entered the parliament, so, this threat has gone. Those two parties invested a lot of money in their campaigns. As a result, some of the parties spent as much as $130,000-150,000 per seat, officially. Unofficially, the seat might cost them as much as $250,000.
What changes can we expect in Kyrgyzstan after the elections?
As long as Russia is giving us money, everything will be OK. I think that the som rate must be lowered. But this will require political will as will the decision to turn Kyrgyzstan into an industrial state. The key problem with the parliament in Kyrgyzstan is that those who fail to enter it expect some compensation in the form of official posts. This practice results in corruption and tribalism and cannot therefore lead the country to any progress.
What tasks has the new parliament to solve?
The key task is to develop the real economy sector and to turn the country’s re-export economy into an economy based on industry, farming and services. Here we will need serious professionals in fields like taxation and serious reforms. And, most importantly, we will have to go through a fight for new influence spheres.
Our second priority is to reduce our state expenses. On Aug 12, we joined the Eurasian Economic Union but may of our sectors are still working the way they worked before the Customs Union. Nothing has changed.
The Kambarat 1 HPP and Upper Naryn HPP Cascade projects are still pending. Russia is involved in them, so, our new government will have to find out why those projects are not moving.
Can we now expect a change in Kyrgyzstan’s foreign policy, particularly, in its attitude towards the Eurasian Economic Union? Can the new parliament change anything here?
It has no people who could do this. The advocates of this idea have gone, while those who have come are all loyal to Russia. Some of them are sincere, some are not but all of them are being encouraged by Russia as 2016 is the centennial of one very painful historical problem, Urkun, the Kyrgyz name for a 1916 revolt against Russian Tsarist forces and a mass flight to escape to China. Lots of Kyrgyz were killed then. The first attempt to water down this problem was undertaken by the Bolsheviks, who said that it was the crime of the Tsarist Russia. The present-day Russia is applying the policy of soft-pedaling. They in the Kremlin want to forget this problem as they need loyal Kyrgyzstan.
So, Almazbek Atambayev has a chance to run for presidency again, doesn’t he?
Reliable sources say that he does not want to.