Minority Representation Paltry in Kyrgyzstan’s New Parliament
Kyrgyzstan's October parliamentary elections have been widely acknowledged as fair and credible by local and international observers. But one issue, minority inclusion, suffered a setback which may prove especially difficult to address in the wake of June’s ethnically fueled violence. Just a handful of deputies in the Jogorku Kenesh parliament come from non-Kyrgyz ethnic groups, in large contrast to Kyrgyzstan’s 30 percent minority population. Uzbeks are the largest minority group in Kyrgyzstan, making up 14.5 percent of the population according to 2009 estimates. But the new parliament will include only three Uzbeks among its 120 members – a mere 2.5 percent of the governing body. Local sources reacting immediately after the election predicted as many as eight Russians would take up seats, though at least two (Yuri Nizovski and Alevtina Zavgorodnyaya of Respublika) have since declined their mandates. This still leaves Russians, who account for 8.3 percent of the population, in control of twice as many seats as Uzbeks.These developments occurred despite institutional rules designed to promote minority involvement in parliament. Article 72 of the Kyrgyz Electoral Code requires 15 percent of each party’s candidates be non-Kyrgyz. However, the code provides no guidance on dividing those spots among different ethnic groups, nor regulating where they are placed numerically on the party lists. In its preliminary report, the OSCE’s ODIHR mission cautioned that only 3.6 percent of all candidates were Uzbek, and that they and other minority candidates were often relegated to the bottom of party lists. In this capacity, they fulfilled the official quota, but were unlikely to become parliamentary delegates as no party could legally win more than 65 seats.As parliamentary mandates were awarded, it became clear that this is exactly what happened. The most egregious example is the Respublika party, in which 11 of its 24 minority candidates were listed in spots 100 - 120. However, 2010 did provide at least one breakthrough in minority representation. Ravshanbek Sabirov, of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, became the first ethnic Tajik to serve in the Kyrgyz parliament. The successful Uzbek delegates are Anvar Artykov of Ar-Namys (Dignity), and Sabir Atadjanov and Bakhtiar Kadyrov of the Social Democrats (SDPK). There is also one deputy from the minority Korean ethnic group, Roman Shin, who has been a Member of Parliament since 2005, and now sits as a member of Ata-Jurt (Fatherland).