Bishkek has breathed a sigh of relief. After a few nerve-wracking days, post-election protests in the country’s restive south have come to a halt. Hundreds of voters, disenchanted with last week’s results, held rallies in Jalal-Abad and Osh—a stark reminder of Kyrgyzstan’s treacherous north-south divide and the capital’s weak hold over the country’s more densely populated half.
Publicly, President-Elect Almazbek Atambayev, a northerner, had little to offer his disgruntled citizens, lying low during the protests. Perhaps, he was negotiating behind closed doors with southern strongman Kamchybek Tashiev, who placed third in the October 30 ballot and personally called off the protests by his supporters, on November 4, just in time for a long holiday weekend. Tashiev denied rumors of a deal, but said he would not endorse violence, or the seizure of government buildings—a tactic used by southern protesters in support of native son and ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, following his bloody ouster last year.
My television in Bishkek is old. The antenna often only provides a weak black and white signal. But these images from public broadcaster ELTR should give those outside the country an idea what Kyrgyzstan’s presidential race looked like from a local living room.
This week, as the campaign wound down and candidates tried to spend the remaining funds in their war chests, television aired their advertisements almost non-stop. Of 83 who originally expressed interest in running, only 16 appeared on the October 30 ballot.
Most of these spots ran in Kyrgyz with Russian subtitles.