Parties to Merge in New Political Framework

Parties to Merge in New Political Framework

Wednesday, 26 September, 2007
If a new constitution is approved by referendum in Kyrgyzstan next month, the resulting changes to the electoral system are likely to prompt political parties of all stripes to merge so as to have a stronger presence in elections, say NBCentralAsia analysts.

In an annual address to the nation on September 19, President Bakiev announced that a referendum will be held on a new constitution on October 21, and he put forward a new version for consideration.

The move follows a September 14 ruling by Kyrgyzstan’s Constitutional Court that the latest version of the constitution, dating from December 2006, and also its immediate predecessor adopted the previous month, were both null and void. Kyrgyzstan therefore reverts – for the time being – to the constitution of 2003.

If Bakiev’s draft document is approved by the referendum, the current parliament, elected in early 2005, could be dissolved by the end of the year to make way for a new one.

In his speech, President Bakiev also said he was setting up his own political party, which he described as “a party of creation, a party of responsibility, a party of action”.

The proposed constitution draft retains a major change from the November and December 2006 documents, increasing the number of seats in parliament from 75 to 90. However, whereas those version introduced the concept of proportional representation, rather than the old first-past-the-post system, for just half the seats, the latest draft would see all seats filled by the new method, which uses party lists.

If one political party wins over half of the 90 seats, it can name a prime minister and a cabinet, with approval from the president.

Bakiev's draft says the president appoints a prime minister nominated by parliament. The prime minister then comes up with a cabinet which the president again approves. The president has the right to sack the prime minister and cabinet without consulting the legislature.

Keneshbek Duishebaev, the chairman of the Akiykat opposition party, is among the many observers who predicts that political parties – both pro-government and opposition - will react to the constitutional changes by joining forces to form bigger, more powerful parties, which will do better under proportional representation.

Political scientist Turat Akimov believes that the pro-government force will consist of Moya Strana (My Country), which led by the head of the presidential administration Medet Sadyrkulov; Novy Kyrgyzstan (New Kyrgyzstan), headed by presidential adviser Usen Sydykov; and the Social Democratic Party, which is led by Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev and Finance Minister Akylbek Japarov.

Akimov argues that such a pro-government alliance might dominate Kyrgyz politics, as has happened in Russia and Kazakstan.

Kazakstan’s parliament was dissolved in June, following constitutional amendments adopted in May that changed the electoral system to proportional representation for all seats. As a result, the large pro-presidential party, Nur Otan, swept the board in the August 18 election, winning 88 per cent of the vote and consequently every seat in the lower house of parliament.

However, political scientist Zayniddin Kurmanov does not think that Kyrgyz politics will go this way. He says the opposition and non-government groups play a greater role than they do in Kazakstan.

“A presidential party in Kyrgyzstan is going to win most of the seats, but not 90 per cent like in Kazakstan. Opposition parties will get 25 to 30 per cent of the vote.

Kubatbek Baibolov, who heads the Akshumkar opposition party, agrees that the situation in Kyrgyzstan is different. If the proposed constitution goes through and parliament is then dissolved, then the opposition’s success in an election will depend on whether it can get its act together.

“With the right strategy, the opposition could take at least 30 per cent of the seats in the Jogorku Kenesh [lower house of parliament]. This will depend on whether it can unite the protest vote.”

(NBCentralAsia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region)

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