President Askar Akayev will likely obtain a working majority in Kyrgyzstan's next parliament after a second-round of voting is held March 13. But some analysts say the legislative elections may well end up being a Phyrric victory for the president.
The first round of voting on February 27 proved politically embarrassing for Akayev. Despite what international observers deemed to be extensive government manipulation during the campaign, only 31 out of the 75 legislative races were settled. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The remaining 44 parliamentary seats are to be determined in the March 13 second round of voting.
Between the two rounds of voting, opposition protests in southern and eastern regions have gained strength, despite lacking cohesion. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Akayev critics maintain that complaints concerning the first round of voting have not been properly redressed. On March 10, opposition leaders announced that they were seeking to coordinate various protest actions.
Pro-government politicians, including the president's daughter, are widely expected to secure most of the parliamentary seats still up for grabs, in part because officials control most mass media outlets in the country. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Even so, opposition supporters say officials may well try to rig the balloting. Officials, including Akayev, counter that the vote will be free and fair.
While the opposition's attempt to unify their protests may come too late to influence the outcome of the March 13 voting, it could have an impact on Akayev's own future. With a presidential election scheduled for October, opposition leaders are aiming to ensure that Akayev relinquishes power at the conclusion of his current term, as currently mandated by Kyrgyzstan's constitution. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Before the March 10 announcement, Kyrgyzstan's opposition could be characterized as a collection of disparate political movements whose leaders pursued different political agendas. Perhaps the opposition's most significant move on March 10 was the selection of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former Kyrgyz prime minister and the head of the People's Movement, as the leader of the opposition coalition. This should help government critics to convey a single message to the Kyrgyz public. In recent days, the Akayev's administration had seized on incendiary statements made by ultra-radicals within the opposition camp to score political points. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
In early March, Bakiyev and other opposition leaders began calling for Akayev's resignation and the nullification of the first round voting results. Bakiyev on March 10 indicated that the opposition will seek to intensify the political pressure on Akayev.
Akayev has consistently portrayed his opponents as radicals striving to foment upheaval in Kyrgyzstan. In a televised address on March 10, Akayev said opposition leaders had placed Kyrgyzstan "on the path" toward "massive disorder, accompanied by a deep disregard for the law." He also characterized the protests as illegal, adding that "behind all these illegal actions stand an array of irresponsible politicians, who are prepared to sacrifice innocent people for the sake of their own ambitions and their thirst for power."
The mood in southern Kyrgyzstan has grown more militant with the approach of the second round of voting. Authorities have made no move to disperse on-going protests in several southern cities, including Jalal-Abad and Uzgen. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Local observers say any move by authorities to disrupt anti-government demonstrations could spark a violent confrontation.
During the run-up to February 27 election, observers believed Akayev had a plan in place under which he would use a strong pro-presidential majority in the new parliament to either rewrite the constitution to enable him to run for another term, or to carefully manage a transition of power to a hand-picked successor. Under the present circumstances, several political observers said, Akayev will likely find it difficult to remain in power regardless of the March 13 results.
For example, Alexander Kynev, a Russian political scientist, maintained that Akayev's cost of ensuring his desired legislative election outcome is prohibitive, primarily because the process alienated many within the president's administration. The president has ignored the interests of a considerable segment of Kyrgyzstan's political establishment by promoting the candidacies of close friends and relatives, Kynev suggested. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
"The political aspirations of Mairam [Akayev's wife] and his children ... actually pushes towards the opposition many those [members of the elite] who had previously been absolutely loyal to Akayev's clan," Kynev said. "Powerful people with plentiful resources may, in the near future, feel compelled to enter into an alliance with the opposition. If this occurs, the opposition's opportunities [to come to power] will grow."