Field Narrowed Ahead Of Campaigning For National Elections
Registration has ended for Kyrgyzstan's political parties and campaigning begun for next month's parliamentary elections.
On November 25, just 12 of about 50 parties that had declared their intention to participate were declared eligible to run.
The December 16 elections follow a national referendum that ushered in a new constitution and should mark a further break with the political landscape before the dramatic political changes of March 2005, when popular protests chased an entrenched administration from power.
The legislators whom President Kurmanbek Bakiev dismissed after October's constitutional referendum had won their seats in the flawed election that sparked those protests.
Bakiev and his allies are hoping these early parliamentary elections will unify a society that has been badly fractured since that voting nearly three years ago.
But it's unclear whether they'll provide relief from more than a year of intense political infighting that has paralyzed the country and made bitter enemies of former opposition allies, some of whom accuse the president of running the country with the same strong hand as his exiled predecessor, Askar Akaev.
Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission released the list of parties that were declared eligible to compete for the support of roughly 2.5 million voters.
Communists of Kyrgyzstan;
Aalam (The Universe), the party of independent people;
Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan;
Jangy Kuech (The New Force); the party of women and youth of Kyrgyzstan;
Ak-Jol (Ak-Jol Eldik Partiyasy [Best Path Popular]) Party;
Erkin Kyrgyzstan (Free Kyrgyzstan);
El Dobushu (People's Voice);
These are the first elections in Kyrgyzstan to be conducted solely on the basis of party lists. New election law dictates that every party must field at least 90 candidates, corresponding to the 90 seats in an expanded parliament under a new constitution.
The political parties that survived the cut are all those that remain from among more than 100 registered political parties and movements, about half of whom declared their intentions to participate when elections were announced last month. But when it came to register, just 22 parties submitted documents. Some of them reconsidered and dropped out, and authorities rejected six parties, some of whom, for instance, Taza Koom [Clean Society], have vowed to appeal their exclusion before a court.
Most of the survivors were expected to play a part in these elections.
Ata-Meken is headed by a former parliamentary speaker and veteran opposition figure, Omurbek Tekebaev. Former Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, now an opposition leader and bitter political rival of President Kurmanbek Bakiev, leads Ar-Namys.
Iskhak Masaliev, a son of a Soviet-era Kyrgyz leader, leads the Communists of Kyrgyzstan Party. A veteran opposition leader, Topchubek Turgunaliev, heads the Erkindik (Freedom) Party. And Erkin Kyrgyzstan, one of the country's oldest opposition parties, is led by Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu.
President Bakiev helped create the Ak-Jol party in October, and Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev leads the Social Democratic Party, one of the oldest post-Soviet parties in Kyrgyzstan.
The most prominent faces -- Tekebaev, Kulov, Masaliev, Turgunaliev, and Bakir-uulu -- are all on their parties' lists. And while President Bakiev and Prime Minister Atambaev cannot run for seats, their parties have some well-known names on their lists.
But some of the names might raise eyebrows, much like Bakiev's appointment to chair his party before the announcement hours later that he would suspend his party activities to comply with a ban on a partisan presidency.
Bakiev's Ak-Jol party has the head of the Constitutional Court atop its list, a move that requires Cholpon Bayekova to suspend her court duties in order to campaign.
Senior party official Jangoroz Kanimetov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Bayekova today announced she was temporarily suspending her work at the court, clearing the way for her to run for parliament.
The ombudsman who heads the Erkin Kyrgyzstan party, Bakir-uulu, has also suspended his official activities as campaigning gets under way.
The Central Election Commission is today conducting a random selection process for television and radio campaign time for the parties.
Twenty days might not seem like much time to mount a campaign. But the Kyrgyz political system is largely driven by personalities who are familiar to the public.
That might make campaigning a little easier, but it also threatens to leave the country mired in the kind of personality-driven politics that has sporadically left it crippled in the face of factionalism.