In April this year, a popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan ousted the authoritarian system which had ruled for almost two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, only six months later, the Central Asian country has held its first elections. Independent observers say this is a remarkable feat; the elections were well-organised and the outcome open. In fact, the preliminary election results have surprised many. The nationalist Ata-Zhurt party, which included many figures from the ousted authoritarian regime, took the largest share of the vote, with nearly 9 per cent. The Social Democratic party which helped organise April’s revolution had to make do with a close second. Three other parties also won more than 5% of the national vote, giving them the right to take seats in the Zhogorku Kenesh, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament. With all parties set for a similar number of seats (20-30 each), the formation of a coalition government will be necessary.
And there is much work for any new government, particularly the urgent need to foster reconciliation in the south between the two ethnic groups of the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. In June, violence erupted between these two communities, leading to the deaths of over 400 people, the destruction of 2,000 homes and the displacement of around 400,000.
Four months later, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which coordinated the humanitarian response, is reporting significant progress towards accommodating all the families who lost their homes. Nearly 1400 temporary shelters have been erected by UNHCR and other aid organizations, with 400 more in progress. All shelters should be completed before winter and one hundred families will be able to move into permanent new homes. Since winter is fast approaching, all the aid organizations active in the country have been distributing winter clothing, blankets and household goods such as mattresses and stoves to thousands of families in the areas of Osh and Jalalabad. Mobile teams have also provided around 11,500 people with legal advice on land and property registration issues.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, nearly a third of Kyrgyz households are ‘food insecure’ and the violence of the summer has had a significant impact on food supplies. A period of stability is now desperately needed, so farmers can attend to their land and livestock and try to make up for the delayed harvests and loss of labour this year.
Some commentators are fearful that with the country’s weak institutions and regionalism, any coalition faces too difficult a task to govern Kyrgyzstan in a successful and peaceful manner. But others are hopeful that with the spread of parliamentary parties, a wide range of views will be incorporated into the new government and this broad representation may work in favour not against stability.