Kyrgyzstan’s presidential casting kicks off

Kyrgyzstan’s electoral show is underway. The first deadline for the presidential elections scheduled for the 10th of January expired on the 14th of November. By that day, the aspiring candidates had to submit their nominations to the Central Election Commission (CEC). A heterogeneous group of people ended up notifying the authorities of their intentions to run, from seasoned politicians to activists, from poets to unemployed, but only one of them will become Kyrgyzstan’s next president.

In total, 63 people make the list of potential candidates to the presidency. Of these, the vast majority (55) are men and all except one were self-nominated. However, not all 63 will appear in the ballots next year. This is the first hurdle and in order to overcome the second, the candidates have to present 30,000 signatures and deposit one million soms (almost $12,000) to the CEC by the 14th of December.

Not your normal candidates

From the 63 people that submitted their applications to the CEC not all of them are politicians. When examining the list, a number of surprising candidates emerge. Among them are Temirlan Ormukov, a blind satirist poet whose poems got him in trouble with the authorities in the past, and Arstan Alai, an extravagant personality who claimed that he was appointed by God and would become President of the Universe in 2020.

Academics, teachers, pensioners and unemployed are also part of those who notified the authorities. They have no chances, even if they make it through the December deadline, but they do add colour and diversity to a list plagued with known faces of the country’s political scene.

The politicians

One of the latest candidates to submit the notification to the CEC was current incumbent Sadyr Japarov. This happened at the same time as he resigned, giving the reins of government to the Speaker of Parliament, an associate of his. While Sadyr Japarov, who surprisingly (and suspiciously) became president during the revolution that overthrew Sooronbai Jeenbekov, is the favourite to win the elections, other veteran politicians will compete against him.

Among those are the leaders or prominent members of three political parties: Adakhan Madumarov (Butun Kyrgyzstan), Kanat Isayev (Kyrgyzstan) and Klara Soronuklova (Reforms). Other politicians, with political affiliations, that have been part of past governments are also in the list. Among them are former deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Kursan Asanov, former Minister of Justice Marat Kaiypov and former governor of the Jalal-Abad region Bektur Asanov. The latter shared a prison sentence for attempted seizure of power with Kubanychbek Kadyrov, another former deputy head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who also put himself forward for the presidency. Presumably Japarov will not be the only candidate in the ballots that spent time in prison.

The long list of candidates will be cut significantly in a month’s time when the final list will be announced. That is when the election campaign will commence. In the meantime, the components of the current list represent the best and worst of the country’s political scene. On the one hand, the variety and large number of people registered shows the vibrancy and diversity of Kyrgyzstan’s society. On the other hand, the presence of veteran politicians, many of them with a dubious past, is a reminder of the need for renovation and change.

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