Elections make the world look East

Vicherny Bishkek (Русский)

28 October 2011

By Walburga Habsburg Douglas

Not even two years ago if I told a colleague I was going to observe an election in Central Asia and that I had no idea who would win, I would probably have been greeted with a doubtful look and one question – where?

Where in Central Asia can there be a competitive electoral contest where the outcome is genuinely not a foregone conclusion?

Today, we all know the answer is the Kyrgyz Republic.

When scores of my colleagues from the OSCE observe this week's presidential election, they will be potentially witnessing a watershed moment for the Central Asian state. Few other countries have experienced such ebbs and flows in recent years when it comes to democratic progress, and Sunday's contest promises to be another unpredictable development, not only regarding the ultimate winner of the election, but also what it means for the country's process of democratization.

The 30 October presidential election is the first to be held under the new constitution and newly adopted legislation. Largely in line with long-standing OSCE recommendations, comprehensive reform of the electoral legislation was conducted by the new government, resulting in the drafting of three new laws: the Constitutional Law on Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, the Law on Election Commissions, and the Law on Local Elections.

During the final drafting stage the new legislation was reviewed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, which noted that although clear progress was made, "some concerns remain, including significant limitations to certain civil and political rights," as well as a certain lack of clarity and repetitions. Taking the joint opinion into consideration, a number of adjustments were made.

The country's willingness to engage with the international community on improving its legislative framework has been conveyed to me on a personal level as well. In a visit to the country last month, I met with Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbayeva, election officials, the foreign ministry and the international community. I also participated in an OSCE parliamentary forum, in which I found an eagerness for open dialogue on the part of my colleagues from the Kyrgyz parliament.

But while progress has been made in recent elections, we are aware that there are many issues still needing to be addressed: legislation could be clearer, media coverage should be more balanced and campaign financing better regulated. Political parties need to be developed more and democratic institutions must continue to be strengthened. These and other factors will be part of our evaluation as to whether these elections meet OSCE standards.

We are, of course, not in Kyrgyzstan to consider the political impact of the election.

The OSCE election observation effort, comprised of the Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which provides long-term observation, will ultimately assess whether this election takes place in accordance with Kyrgyzstan's commitments under the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.

As elected representatives, my parliamentary colleagues and I have a particular interest in analyzing to what extent elections are genuine and that their outcomes are legitimate. When we observe elections, our guiding question is, do these elections genuinely reflect the will of the people?

In a country such as Kyrgyzstan, this question is paramount. With recent political and inter-ethnic violence, genuine elections that reflect the will of the people are vital in order to maintain the peace within the country, and the security of the wider region.

At a time when so many people are looking south to Northern Africa to see what will become of fledgling democracies, we hope this week's elections will give the world a reason to look east and see Kyrgzystan as a model for others seeking to create a parliamentary democracy.

We will be there to observe and report what we see. The rest is up to the people of Kyrgyzstan.

The author is a member of the Swedish parliament, Vice-President of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and the leader of OSCE Short-Term Observer Mission for the 2011 presidential election.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

  • Facebook
  • twir
  • in
  • inst
  • two
  • video