On 5 October public anger over the disputed 4 October parliamentary election rapidly escalated into violent riots, with protesters seizing control of the government’s headquarters. While security forces clashed violently with protesters, law and order effectively broke down as demonstrators freed high-profile prisoners, including ex-President Almazbek Atambayev. With the growing power vacuum threatening further instability, it remains unclear whether incumbent President Sooronbai Jeenbekov will be able to retain power. As anticipated in our earlier reporting, the election has proven one of the most divisive in recent years, with the country’s Covid-19 triggered economic crisis compounding political grievances that will ensure tensions remain high in the coming days (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief 2 October).
Political tensions have remained high for weeks in the run up to the 4 October parliamentary vote, with outbreaks of violence during campaigning reflecting the unstable nature of Kyrgyz democracy. However, with pro-government parties Birimdik (Unity), Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland Kyrgyzstan), and the Kyrgyzstan Party securing the vast majority of seats, the election has triggered simmering anger over the status quo and the unwillingness of the administration to initiate reforms. Due to a 7% vote threshold, only one opposition party, Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan, secured enough votes to enter parliament; a result which would reinforce the status quo and perpetuated rampant corruption and existing patronage networks.
Following the results, opposition parties offered evidence of substantial irregularities including vote-buying and abuse of administrative resources during the campaign. Following rioting last night and the seizure of the parliament building, knowns as the White House, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that the results of the election were invalidated, meaning the election now looks likely to be re-run.
Since the seizure of the White House a power vacuum has emerged that threatens to reignite violence on 6 October, and in the days ahead. Numerous opposition leaders have declared a Coordinating Council that aims to form a transitional government, while the incumbent Parliament is holding talks in the Dostuk Hotel near Victory Square – though a lack of a quorum will undermine attempts to move forward peacefully. With numerous politicians self-appointing themselves as ministers and officials, it remains uncertain who, if anybody, wields power after President Jeenbekov fled the White House.
In contrast to the 2010 revolution that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, however, the opposition have not yet been able to form a unified interim government, with ongoing talks and conflicting claims to authority making the situation highly uncertain.
With two Kyrgyz presidents being toppled by popular revolution in the last 15 years, there is a firm precedent for the ongoing political crisis to result in rapid regime change. Ongoing talks and attempts by the opposition Coordinating Council to form a transitional government are likely to result in a request for incumbent President Jeenbekov to resign voluntarily, though parliament’s shaky attempts to elect a new Speaker will sustain uncertainty over any peaceful transition of power…
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