Persistent institutional chaos is undermining public confidence in Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary republic as the country enters a new political cycle. Observers fear parliamentary elections this November could destabilize and further fracture Kyrgyzstan, as officials – including the secretive coterie surrounding President Almazbek Atambayev – scramble to accumulate power. With the struggle already underway – and as Kyrgyzstan integrates with its authoritarian neighbors Russia and Kazakhstan in the Eurasian Economic Union – civic groups complain that democratic practices are steadily eroding. Evidence of backsliding on basic rights in 2014 was abundant — ranging from populist and Russia-inspired legislation targeting homosexuals and non-profits, through apparent efforts to muffle and co-opt influential media. Lawmakers have been mooting controversial ideas, such as arming civilians in border areas, and calling for economically unfeasible policies.
Some have demanded the country’s largest industrial asset, the Kumtor Gold mine, be expropriated; others want families with three babies to receive compensation to the tune of roughly $5,000 per extra baby.
“MPs are in the shop window now,” explained Marat Kazakpaev, a political scientist at Polis Asia, a think-tank in Bishkek. Kazakpaev believes the election law might be changed, making fewer seats available in the future parliament. Such a move would likely intensify competition for parliamentary seats.
In contrast to the general trend in other Central Asian states, Atambayev has agreed to serve only one six-year term. He likewise differs from his predecessors in Kyrgyzstan, both of whom were ousted amid street riots in 2005 and 2010 respectively.