Numbers Controversy Tainting Kyrgyzstan’s Whistle-Clean Elections
He looks like a poor loser, but he may have a point. The leader of an opposition party that authorities say lost in the October 10 parliamentary elections has threatened he cannot control his followers who may resort to violence. "I am warning -- the mood of the people is serious, their patience has run out," Butun Kyrgyzstan leader Adakhan Madumarov told a news conference on October 19 before hundreds of supporters rallied outside the parliament building in Bishkek.Though he’s been making similarly dramatic statements for over a week, he is right that there is something fishy in the election rules that shut his party out.Kyrgyzstan’s confusing vote tally is based on a proportional list system. To enter parliament, a party must receive at least 5 percent of the total possible votes. Members of the nationalist-leaning, southern-based Butun Kyrgyzstan began rallying on October 12 after the Central Election Commission announced that the total number of eligible voters had turned out to be about 3 million instead of the originally estimated 2.8 million. This bumped up the threshold for entering parliament by about 10,000 votes, which, for Butun Kyrgyzstan, made the difference between in or out. The CEC says Butun Kyrgyzstan received 4.84 percent of the 3 million. Butun Kyrgyzstan supporters say they received over 5 percent of the 2.8 million. Madumarov, a former Security Council secretary, has based his protest on a persuasive question: “How can the population of Kyrgyzstan grow by 200,000 overnight?” CEC Chairman Akylbek Sariev explained on October 12 that these people had not been included in the original voter lists because those lists had not accounted for changes in residency. Offering its support to the CEC, the State Statistics Committee emailed a press release on October 13 stating that Kyrgyzstan has well over 3 million citizens over the age of 18, and thus eligible to vote. The controversy has the potential to turn ugly. As Butun Kyrgyzstan rallied on October 19, a counter rally against perceived supporters of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev moved into place across the square. At one point, several men engaged in fisticuffs. One winning party, Ata-Meken, supported the counter rally; another, Ar-Namys, supported Butun Kyrgyzstan. Ar-Namys has said it backs a recount. But a recount does not address the issue of how many eligible voters there are in Kyrgyzstan, Madumarov says. He wants the vote to be tallied based on the 2.8 million figure.The five winning parties have little reason to support Butun Kyrgyzstan: If a sixth party enters the 120-seat parliament, it would take away seats from each of the others. However, if some of the current winners see Butun Kyrgyzstan as a strong coalition partner that could tip the overall balance in parliament in their favor, they may have reason to fight for its passage into the legislature.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.