22 june 2018

Central Asia news

Look who is here! A brief review of the new parliament of Kyrgyzstan

11.01.2008 13:28 msk

Abdumomun Mamaraimov (Jalalabad)

Politics Kyrgyzstan

What is the ethnic and gender composition of the new parliament of Kyrgyzstan? How many youths sit on the Jogorku Kenesh? Does its composition reflect the regional division that exists in the republic?

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Reorganization of the system by which the Jogorku Kenesh is formed mostly came down to election of all 90 lawmakers by party lists only. Moreover, political party's list of candidates was supposed to include not more than 70% of candidates of one particular gender, 15% of youths (under 35 years, that is), and some representatives of various ethnic groups.

Not even these new rules, however, made the new parliament less mono-ethnic. Neither did they change its gender composition in any discernible manner. What the authorities accomplished was what they had been after all along. They ended up with an obedient parliament, one lacking whoever the authorities branded as demagogues.

Obedient, mute, and unapproachable?

Snap parliamentary election was organized soon after adoption of the new Constitution and disbandment of the old parliament by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in late October 2007. Every second political party out of 100 existing in Kyrgyzstan pledged readiness to run for the parliament at first. Twenty-two actually submitted documents to the Central Electoral Commission. Twelve were registered and permitted to proceed.

Predictably enough, presidential Ak-Jol and two other parties quite loyal to the regime made the Jogorku Kenesh. Parties of the opposition including Ata Meken (party of the united opposition) failed, and their leaders - prominent activists of the opposition - found themselves out of the parliament. Their list includes ex-premier Felix Kulov, former deputies Kubatbek Baibolov, Temir Sariyev, Duishenkul Chotonov, Bolotbek Sherniyazov, and many other activists of the so called March Revolution (2005) and the movement of the opposition it gave birth to.

The Supreme Court the opposition immediately appealed to questioning the outcome of the election backed the verdict of the Central Electoral Commission. Lacking serious following and support in society, the opposition knew better than try any mass protest actions. Nine parties of the opposition and as many non-governmental organizations dissatisfied with the outcome of the parliamentary election merged into the new Movement For Justice on December 25. The new movement wouldn't reveal its plans for the future. [Ferghana.Ru already reported that the Movement For Justice scheduled a republican forum of progressive democratic forces for January 14, one where it might decide to form an "alternative parliament".]

The list of critics of the president who made the Jogorku Kenesh is down to only two - ex-deputy Kabai Karabekov and ex-minister Roza Otunbayeva. It should be mentioned that Karabekov was elected by Ak-Jol list of candidates. He had been heard complaining before the election that running for the parliament was something he couldn't afford because political parties were demanding substantial sums for putting his name on their respective lists of candidates. "I cannot raise the money they demand for putting my name on top of the list of candidates," Karabekov told AKIpress news agency explaining his decision to quit Ak-Shumkar.

Bakiyev's former comrade-in-arms in the March Revolution who ended up in the Social Democratic Party, Otunbayeva owes her seat on the parliament to Omurbek Babanov, activist of the opposition and ex-deputy who appealed to his followers to vote Otunbayeva. The Central Electoral Commission removed Babanov from the parliamentary race on the assumption that he was citizen of Kazakhstan barely a day before the election. Babanov made the appeal to his followers to vote Otunbayeva and promptly filed a lawsuit against the Central Electoral Commission. He did win the court battle and proved his Kyrgyz citizenship - and therefore the right to run for the national legislature.

All in all, less than twenty members of the old parliament retained their seats on the Jogorku Kenesh. Practically all of them are former civil servants who belong to the Ak-Jol faction now. Their list is headed by Adahan Madumarov (former state secretary who was elected chairman of this presidential administration) and winds down to chiefs of departments and school principals.

Neither does the new parliament amount to too much from the standpoint of territorial diversity. Only 38 lawmakers of the recently elected Jogorku Kenesh worked in the south before the election. (In the meantime, three regions in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan account for over 50% of the total population of the republic.) Sixty deputies are residents of the capital city of Bishkek. The Chui region, the second largest region of Kyrgyzstan in terms of population, is represented by eight lawmakers. The Issyk-Kul region famous for its spas and resorts and the Naryn one on the border with China are represented by a lawmaker each. The Talass region, the smallest, is not represented at all.

Abolition of the corps of deputies' aides put lawmakers essentially out of reach for the common folk. On the other hand, lawmakers of the new Jogorku Kenesh are clearly closer to the government now because they are wise enough to understand who they owe their seats on the parliament to.

Elected the chairman, Madumarov promised to enforce discipline and order in the parliament. The new provision that will allegedly broaden the part played by parliamentary factions is quite revealing on what he means by order. According to the new rules, a lawmaker is permitted to address the Jogorku Kenesh from the lectern only with his or her respective faction's consent. In the meantime, the right to speak at plenary meetings is reserved only for the chairman himself, leaders of factions, and deputies with reports on draft laws currently on the floor.

"What obedient a parliament we have now!" Murat Jurayev of the Social Democratic Party said by way of comment.

Difficulties of representation

Its population standing at 5.2 million, Kyrgyzstan is the home of more than 80 ethnic groups. The Uzbeks are the largest non-titular ethnic group, second to the Kyrgyzes alone. According to the official statistics, they number over 600,000 but leaders of the Uzbek community themselves boast of twice as large a number.

Ethnic Russians account for over 10% of the population. Following them, the largest ethnic groups include the Uigurs, Dungans, Ukrainians, and some others that constitute between 1% and 3% of the population. All in all, non-titular ethnic groups account for more than 30% of the population.

The Jogorku Kenesh elected in 1995 included 105 lawmakers and 85 of them or 81% were Kyrgyzes. This parliament also included Uzbeks (8), Russians and Ukrainians (6 in all), Karachayevs and Dungans (2 each), and a German (1). In other words, ethnic minorities that constituted 41% of the population had 19 seats on the parliament.

The Constitution adopted in 2003 restricted the number of lawmakers to 75, all of them to be elected in single-mandate districts. Representatives of the titular nation accounted for 85% of the deputies' corps in the parliament elected in 2005. Seven Uzbeks, one Russian, and one Karachayev made up the remaining 15%.

Ar-Namys and Vox Populi parties last December composed particularly "international" lists of candidates (each list comprising representatives of 13 ethnic groups). Lists of Ak-Jol, Communist Party, Asaba, and Turan included representatives of six ethnic groups each.

All in all, twelve political parties running for the Jogorku Kenesh nominated representatives of 26 ethnic groups. Representatives of only seven actually made the parliament - 73 Kyrgyzes (81%), seven Russians (7.7%), two Koreans, Uigur, Dungan, and Karachayev (one each).

Leaders of the Uzbek diaspora aspired for every fifth seat on the Jogorku Kenesh last December, but luck was not with them. Candidates of the Motherland party (composed of ethnic Uzbeks by over 75%) were denied official registration. Forty Uzbeks finagled places on lists of candidates compiled by other political parties. Only one of them actually made it.

Five alleged Uzbeks made the Jogorku Kenesh on the Ak-Jol list of candidates. As a matter of fact, not all of them are actually Uzbeks. Ethnic Kyrgyz Alisher Mamasaliyev for one is listed as an Uzbek for some reason. So is boxing champion Orzubek Nazarov who has never given a conscious thought to his own ethnic origin.

According to Kyrgyz national TV, one Uzbek did make the parliament. He is ex-deputy Alisher Sabirov, a man who does not even speak his native tongue. Genuine leaders of the Uzbek community never got the coveted mandates - Kadyrjan Batyrov, Davran Sabirov, and Inomjan Abdurasulov had been on the Motherland list of candidates denied registration. Ex-governor of Osh Anvar Artykov, No 4 on Ar-Namys list of candidates, failed to make the parliament.

Analysis of lists of candidates plainly shows that representatives of ethnic minorities were included there only as an afterthought and of necessity. Muhammajan Mamasaidov, President of the Uzbek Center of National Culture, became No 74 on Ak-Jol list of candidates.

A Russian is No 4 on the Social Democratic Party list, and another representative of an ethnic minority is but No 20. A Russian is No 27 on Vox Populi list of candidates, an Uzbek is No 38 on Ata Meken's. Communists alone remained true to their concept of internationalism. Their party ended up with eight seats on the Jogorku Kenesh and three deputies of their small faction are representatives of ethnic minorities.

Women and youths "on duty"

All twelve political parties running for the parliament nominated approximately 400 women or about 30% for the parliament - once again, in accordance with the recently amended legislation.

Women constitute only 16% of the new Jogorku Kenesh, however. Not bad, bearing in mind that the previous parliament was exceptionally masculine, i.e. from the standpoint of quantity. Quality, now, is a different matter.

There are practically no women in the parliament with experience in political or social life of the country at the national level. Apart from the already mentioned Otunbayeva and Cholpon Bayekova formerly of the Constitutional Court, all the rest are women from median levels of civil service.

It may be added that political parties preferred non-Kyrgyz women. Fourteen Russians on Ar Namys list of candidate included ten women. Nine Russians on the list of candidates compiled by the Social Democratic Party were women as well. Politicians themselves ascribe it to the old "kill two birds with one stone" principle - a candidate is simultaneously of the different sex and a different ethnic group.

Only twelve lawmakers in the new parliament are under 35 years (the youngest is 28). Not one of these young lawmakers is known to general public. What activists of youth movements challenged the outcome of the election were promptly charged under one pretext or other and fined.

When a TV broadcast showed a neophyte lawmaker barely able to read the mandatory oath from a piece of paper he held close to his eyes, society grew cognizant of illiteracy of the new deputies. Madumarov promised to organize special courses for lawmakers to hone their "juridical" skills (!).

So, Kyrgyzstan has a new parliament now. Bakiyev promised to make it a bona fide legislature. Will this promise be kept? No way of telling now.