Kurmanbek Bakiev, the main contender for president of Kyrgyzstan, left his opponents no chance for victory
The Double-Headed Tulip
// Kurmanbek Bakiev and Feliks Kulov become the legal successors of Askar Akaev
Presidential elections were held yesterday in Kyrgyzstan. They ended three months of instability that began in March with the “Tulip Revolution” and the ouster of Askar Akaev. Now that all the democratic formalities have been observed, and the republic has acquired a legitimate leader – Kurmanbek Bakiev won nearly 90 percent of the vote – the real power struggle will begin in Kyrgyzstan. Within the winning team, as in the other countries that went through “color revolutions”. Feliks Kulov should now be appointed prime minister; as a politician, he probably enjoys greater authority that the new president.
The Heat Didn't Spoil the Turnout
Many people predicted Kurmanbek Bakiev's victory in the first round. Relatively accurate results of the presidential elections will become known by noon today, when the Central Election Committee receives records from the election committees from all regions. However, according to exit polls, nearly 89 percent of the electorate supported the acting prime minister, while his closest rival, ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir-uulu, gathered less than 5 percent. At Bakirev's headquarters, they were already accepting congratulations yesterday evening.
Contrary to warnings of a possible disruption of the elections, the atmosphere was calm. Voter turnout was also quite high. Despite the 40-degree heat, unusual even for this area, the required minimum 50-percent voter turnout was exceeded by 16.00 local time.
Towards the end of the election campaign, there were six candidates running for head of state. Besides Bakiev and Bakir-uulu, they included former interior minister Keneshbek Dushebaev, leader of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan Zhypar Zheksheev, president of the Association of Nongovernmental Organizations Toktaiym Umetalieva, and president of the republic's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Akbaraly Aitikeev. Initially, 22 Kyrgyz politicians announced their intentions to run for president; but after the formation of the election team of the two most likely candidates – northerner Feliks Kulov, the leader of the Ar-Namys Party, and acting president Bakiev, a southerner – the majority of the candidates backed out of the elections. According to an agreement signed by the politician, if Bakiev were elected president, he would secure his partner's appointment as prime minister, whose functions would be considerably expanded.
In order to ensure the maximum possible legitimacy of the election process, transparent ballot boxes were set up in all polling stations, and all voters at the polling stations had their fingers marked with special colorless ink that was visible only under a UV lamp. However, not everyone liked this attempt at honest elections. “I share the doubts of those citizens of Kyrgyzstan who find the “branding” procedure humiliating. Although marking is established by law, it is clearly an anachronism in a civilized country with a fairly high level of education such as Kyrgyzstan,” said Vladimir Rushailo, the head of the CIS mission.
Askar Akaev Didn't Show Up
“Don't expect a counterrevolution in Kyrgyzstan; everything will be calm,” Bakiev said yesterday at a polling station. “We have a good chance of holding transparent, open elections in accordance with the election code and OSCE standards.” The future winner had come to vote dressed very democratically without jacket or tie.
Former president Askar Akaev was expected yesterday at the polling station in the Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Moscow. However, by evening he had still not appeared. Several days before the vote, the former leader of Kyrgyzstan expressed doubts about taking part in the elections. “The atmosphere at the embassy is too unfriendly,” he said.
Unlike her father and other family members, former parliamentary deputy Bermet Akaeva took part in the elections, and right in Bishkek no less. While noting that she had “voted for the candidate who won't lead the country to wrack and ruin,” she didn't give his name. In her opinion, there were too few observers at the elections.
International observers, who arrived in Kyrgyzstan from 20 countries, have so far not reported any serious violations of election laws. Among the violations, presidential candidate Zheksheev noted transport of voters to polling stations, which is prohibited by law, as well as the organization of free lunches for Bakiev's representatives. Umetalieva also reported mass transport of people to polling stations in minibuses and cases of handing out money, but she had difficulty naming any specific incidents.
“In the event of a positive outcome of the elections, if Bakiev is elected, we intend to start forming a new government next week,” Kulov said yesterday. In fact, the main mystery of the present vote was connected with this – would Kulov be able to form his cabinet and would the politicians start quarreling even as portfolios were distributed.
In the opinion of Bishkek analysts, serious conflicts between the victors could arise within the next few days. They note that the future prime minister might not find a common language with three fairly influential politicians in Bakiev's circle, i.e., deputy prime ministers Daniyar Usenov, Adakhan Madumarov, and Prosecutor General Azimbek Bekhazarov.
Another weak spot in relations between the future president and prime minister could be the desire of both to revise the agreement on division of powers they reached at the beginning of the election campaign. At that time, they agreed that the prime minister would have control over economic policy, while the president would be in charge of security and foreign policy. Up to now, this agreement has had the character of a gentlemen's agreement only and has never been fixed in legislation. In the next few months, Bakiev and Kulov will have to make the appropriate amendments to the legislation and deliver them to parliament. And then a new confrontation could flare up in Kyrgyzstan's ruling elite.
The present parliament is inclined to greater loyalty to Kulov than to Bakiev. After all, many deputies owe their seats to the future prime minister. At the beginning of March, soon after the revolution, it was Kulov who defended this parliamentary composition, although many opposition leaders, headed by Bakiev, considered it illegitimate and demanded its dissolution. The deputies have shown more than once that their relations with Bakiev are rather strained. At the very start of the election campaign, they were on the point of passing a law prohibiting the acting prime minister from running for president in order to exclude the use of administrative resources. Therefore, it is not inconceivable that, by redistributing the powers of the president and the prime minister, the deputies will show their willingness to play up to Kulov and give him much greater powers the President Bakiev.
All the Article in Russian as of July 11, 2005