Presidential election campaign enters a new stage in Kyrgyzstan

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BISHKEK (TCA) — On August 3, the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan (CEC) registered the first presidential candidate, Temir Sariyev, nominated by the Ak Shumkar political party. From August 1, the CEC has stopped accepting applications from those wishing to run for presidency in the country. The presidential elections are scheduled for October 15.

Until September 1, the candidates should submit the entire package of documents to the CEC including at least 30,000 signatures in their support, results of a test for the knowledge of the Kyrgyz language, and to pay a 1 million som electoral deposit. Then, within 10 days, the CEC should consider and register presidential candidates. The election campaign will last from September 10 to October 13.

According to the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic may be elected President if he or she is not younger than 35 and not older than 70, has good knowledge of the state language and has resided in the country for at least 15 years.

The CEC has received 58 applications from those wishing to participate in the presidential election, of which 47 applications are from self-nominees and 11 from political parties.

Main candidates

The main candidates for the presidency are the current Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov and his two predecessors — Temir Sariyev and Omurbek Babanov. But the intrigue remains.

Although President Almazbek Atambayev supported Jeenbekov, his victory is not guaranteed. According to experts in Bishkek and Moscow, Jeenbekov’s strong religiousness and lack of political independence can play against him, Russian Kommersant daily reported.

Temir Sariyev is the first to have submitted more than 60,000 signatures of Kyrgyz citizens to the CEC. According to experts, Sariyev has extensive experience in public administration, as well as good foreign policy ties.

Abandoning presidential ambitions

Having declared his intention to run for the elections at the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) congress on July 15, Parliament Speaker Chynybai Tursunbekov provoked a split in the ruling party. PM Jeenbekov is a single candidate from the SDPK. According to the party rules, its members should submit one candidate only.
Tursunbekov decided to go for elections as a self-proponent. If a party member does not implement the party’s decision, he should leave it, SDPK Deputy Chairman Farid Niyazov said.

At his press conference on July 31, Tursunbekov stated that he would not run for the presidency. He is not going to leave the post of Speaker or the SDPK, either, he added. After he announced his intention to run for the presidency, his opponents organized a black PR campaign against him, Tursunbekov said.

Experts believe that Tursunbekov has abandoned presidential ambitions in exchange for retaining the post of the parliament’s Speaker.

Most of the other candidates have almost no chance of being elected. A significant part of them would not go through registration at the CEC, when they will have to submit at least 30,000 signatures in their support and a 1 million som deposit, or pass the state language exam.

Language examination

As of August 2, 18 candidates have passed the examination for the knowledge of the Kyrgyz language. Ex-Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun has shown the best result (94.75 points out of 100), followed by Omurbek Babanov (93.5 points), unemployed Ulukbek Kochkorov (91.9 points), ex-Ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu (88.6 points), and Temir Sariyev (81.8 points).

According to the law, candidates shall get at least 60 points from the expert commission.

Opposition self-nominee candidate Omurbek Tekebayev has not received the court’s permission to take the exam. Meanwhile Tekebayev has the right to run for president because he is not convicted by a court verdict. He is under investigation and in custody, and no more, Tekebayev’s lawyer said.

Earlier this year the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal case against Ata Meken parliamentary faction leader Tekebayev on charges of corruption and bribe-taking.

Back to presidential rule?

“The system of governance should be either presidential or parliamentary, and when I become president, this issue will be put to public consideration. Our people should decide it at a referendum,” leader of the Respublika — Ata-Jurt political party Omurbek Babanov said at a press conference on July 31.

Under the current Constitution, Kyrgyzstan is a parliamentary republic. At the Constitutional referendum in December of 2016, the people of Kyrgyzstan decided which form of government the country needs. In addition, Kyrgyz citizens also approved amendments to the Constitution which strengthened the powers of the Prime Minister.

It seems that Babanov wants to return to presidential rule but the people remember well the shortcomings of the authoritarian regimes under the expelled presidents Akayev and Bakiyev. It is unlikely that committed to freedom and democracy, Kyrgyzstan’s people would agree to return to the authoritarian or family rule. Such pre-election statements could negatively affect the votes Babanov expects to obtain in the upcoming elections, experts say.

Babanov denied rumors that he is going to withdraw his candidacy in exchange for the prime minister’s chair.

Prime Minister Jeenbekov should leave his post and participate in the presidential race on an equal footing with other candidates, Babanov said. The post of the head of the Government should not be associated with the party that nominated its candidate, otherwise they will use the administrative resource. Babanov proposed that one of the current vice-premiers not connected with any political party should be appointed acting Prime Minister.

Many people mistakenly think that the President of Kyrgyzstan has few powers. “He has very great powers. Especially if he has a party in the Parliament,” Babanov said.

Money spent

According to the CEC, Babanov continues to spend much more money for his election campaign compared to other candidates. Of his 32 million som electoral fund, he has already spent 20.7 million soms. Jeenbekov’s fund received 3 million soms, of which 398 thousand soms have been spent. Sariyev has spent 3.7 million soms out of his 5.5 million som fund.