Political Crisis Erupts In Kyrgyzstan Following Allegations Of A Rigged Election

A political crisis erupted in Kyrgyzstan last Monday after opposition parties claimed that the parliamentary election held on Sunday was rigged. Protesters hit the streets the following day, demanding the impeachment of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Several days of chaos have culminated in violence, a series of looting, protesters seizing control of government buildings, and protesters freeing high profile political detainees. Among this chaos, seven hundred civilians have been wounded, and a 19-year-old man killed, according to the BBC.

Although President Jeenbekov is yet to stand down, he told BBC Kyrgyz in a phone interview that he was ready to give his responsibility to “strong leaders” and that he is “even ready to help them.” However, Jeenbekov was skeptical of the protester’s true intentions. He claimed that “the main goal of the protesters was not to annul the election results but to remove me from power,” in the same interview. Regardless of intent, the protests have generated high levels of political instability alerting Russia which has significant economic ties with the country and has a military airbase there.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed great concern for the crisis. He hopes that “normal democratic processes will resume…as soon as possible,” according to a BBC report. The situation also alerted China, an important trading partner to Kyrgyzstan. As reported by BBC, China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “highly concerned.” Both China and Russia’s involvement in the situation is yet to be announced.

The protesters’ violent demonstrations are unjustifiable. While their frustration and disapproval of the recent election are understandable, their actions have caused serious harm to other civilians, and have damaged numerous government buildings. Additionally, the looting sprees have caused fear among store owners, resulting in the temporary closure of many banks, shops, and restaurants, according to Al Jazeera.

To put all of this into context, twelve of the sixteen political parties in Kyrgyzstan did not pass the threshold for entry into parliament in the recent elections. Three of the four parties which did pass the threshold had close ties to the President, as reported by the BBC. Consequently, the twelve opposition parties rejected the vote results, accusing the three parties of vote-buying and voter intimidation. Several of the opposition parties recently created the People’s Coordination Council Opposition with the intention of assuming all state powers and dissolving parliament. Since then, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov has been replaced by Sadyr Japarov, a political detainee freed by protesters.

Without external support, Kyrgyzstan’s political crisis could escalate further in the short-term. Tension is reportedly developing between the initially united opposition parties. They are becoming divided and arguing over the allocation of government positions. This is extremely concerning considering the country’s domestic security is currently under their control. Immediate action must be taken by the opposition parties to restore order in the country. This means focusing their efforts on public safety rather than disputing which party will receive the most influential government position. Furthermore, several gold mines were seized or damaged during the protests. It will be interesting to see how Canada responds in the coming days considering it has major gold mining operations in the country.

Charles Alcasar Guedouard