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Kyrgyzstan elects parliament with eye on Moscow

Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on Sunday for a hotly-contested parliamentary vote, but the results are unlikely to change the ex-Soviet country's firmly pro-Russian trajectory.

AFP| Updated: Oct 04, 2015, 19:32 PM IST

Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on Sunday for a hotly-contested parliamentary vote, but the results are unlikely to change the ex-Soviet country's firmly pro-Russian trajectory.

Polling stations across the majority-Muslim Central Asian country of six million saw long queues form in the autumn sunshine.

Fourteen parties and more than 2,000 candidates are contesting 120 seats.

The Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), linked to pro-Moscow President Almazbek Atambayev, is expected to do well in the poll.

But it can only take a maximum of 65 seats in the single-chamber legislature due to a stipulation in the constitution.

Other parties tipped for a strong showing include Ata-Meken, Bir Bol and Respublika-Ata-Jurt, all of which are also openly loyal to Moscow.

The majority-Muslim secular republic is occasionally referred to as an "island of democracy" in authoritarian Central Asia and has enjoyed a free press and civil society since the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a bloody uprising in 2010.

"I remember previous years, when conducting genuinely honest elections was just a dream," Atambayev said after casting his vote.

"This is a great happiness for the whole country."

In the capital Bishkek, voters backed a range of parties, with many supporting SDPK.

"It is the strongest party," said Yulia Zakharchenko, a 36-year-old nurse.

"I don't expect much to change, though. The parliament will reconvene and it will be five more years of intrigue and corruption," she told AFP.

Others stressed the importance of national unity after the uprising and the subsequent ethnic violence claimed some 500 lives in 2010.

"I am for the Ata-Meken party because this party has a strong leader who does not divide the country into north and south," Abdyrahman Abdyrahman uulu, a pensioner, told AFP.

But some political analysts like Emil Juraev of the American University of Central Asia feared the new parliament will feature "new parties but old faces."

"It would be false to say that a culture of parliamentarianism has arrived in Kyrgyzstan. The type and quality of candidate remains similar to the last election," Juraev told AFP.