Elections in Kyrgyzstan: A Democratic Move Or A Step Back?
23 October, 2017

Although the official results won’t be announced for another couple of weeks, it is pretty clear that Kyrgyzstan will have Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a 49-year-old politician and former prime minister of Kyrgyzstan, as a president for the following six years.

In what is widely considered as one of the only few peaceful and democratic elections in the history of modern Kyrgyzstan, Jeenbekov won more than 54 percent of the vote on October 15, enough to negate the need for a second round.

Jeenbekov’s opponent, businessman and a fellow former prime minister Omurbek Babanov, gained a little under 34 percent.

But according to Bektour Iskender, Kyrgyz journalist and co-founder of news agency, despite the “positive PR made by the western media that Kyrgyzstan is this free Central Asian country, and so on,” there were numerous violations during the election.

“Those people who worked in government structures, those people who work in schools, hospitals, they were kind of forced to go and vote for Jeenbekov, and then also university students,” Iskender says.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many people voted just out of fear that somehow the authorities would find out who they voted for,” he added.

Iskender also told Hromadske that a journalist was attacked.

According to Iskender, the biggest challenge facing the new president will be restoring the country’s relationship with neighbouring Kazakhstan.

In the last few months of his presidency, outgoing president Almazbek Atambayev “ruined” relations between the two Central Asian countries by insulting his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev, who openly backed Babanov. As a result, Kazakhstan closed the border between the two countries, damaging the Kyrgyz economy.

Election violations and Kazakh-Kyrgyz relations are not the only issues Kyrgyzstan currently faces, according to Iskender. He views the elections as a “huge step back” for democracy in the Central Asian country.

“I think, in a way, they kind of used this image, this positive image that was suddenly created and, in a way, they could organise whatever they wanted and we would still look better than our neighbours.”

Hromadske spoke to Kyrgyz journalist and co-founder of the news agency Bektour Iskender to discuss the elections and what they mean for Kyrgystan.

READ MORE: Kyrgyzstan’s Nail-Biter Presidential Election, Explained