Kyrgyzstan: Diary of an Election Observer

31 Oct

Kazaxia is honoured once again to link up with Lord Venal as he returned to the region to observe Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election on 30 October.

Greetings from Bishkek, a pleasant little city with a smattering of good bars and restaurants. I’m staying in the centrally-located Hyatt hotel which gives me a chance to explore the city and meet some of the electorate in person.

I had been warned in advance about rising anti-foreigner sentiment in the country, but I am pleased to report that my experiences with the Kyrgyz were all positive. I found the hotel staff to be most helpful and friendly. In Metro bar I saw that the locals, especially young women, were going out of their way to interact with foreigners of all ages in a most friendly manner.

On election day itself I unfortunately missed the early start as I was feeling a bit under the weather after the Halloween shindig in Metro. However, I made up for it later in the day and visited a few voting locations in Bishkek. The polling stations were doing a brisk trade by late afternoon.

The election was quite an open affair with 16 candidates vying for the top job – this was the first election in Central Asia where the result was not a foregone conclusion. The voters I spoke to had either voted for Almazbek Atambayev, the frontrunner, or an unfancied candidate called Protiv Vsekh.

The presents on offer in the polling stations were not as good as those in Kazakhstan, but still I came away with a very fetching Kyrgyz hat and some bottles of vintage Kyrgyz congac. Fortunately, I had brought my rose-tinted specs with me from my visit to Kazakhstan in April.

I spent the evening with my new buddy, Boris, a first-time observer from Washington DC. Boris is finishing up his doctoral thesis ‘Incipient Manasism in the post-Soviet Kyrgyz Space’, a most interesting topic which he described to me at length over a few bottles of the local blackcurrant wine he’d brought back from his visit to Osh.

The result when it came took us both a little by surprise as the victor, Almazbek Atambayev had only managed to amass a paltry 63% of the vote. In my previous experiences of observing elections in this part of the world, this was quite a poor result as 80% + is the norm for wannabe presidents.

This result means that there will be no run-off, which is a shame as there are a few more restaurants I would have liked to have checked out with Boris this time round, such as Smokie’s Bar B-Q and the Obama Bar and Grill, as the next election is not until 2017, but such is the life of an election observer.

Editor’s note: Lord Venal’s observation mission was funded by the Centre for Reporting and Analysing Politics

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2 Responses to “Kyrgyzstan: Diary of an Election Observer”

  1. Joshua Foust October 31, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    I was actually had by this for a few paragraphs. VERY nicely done.

  2. Anthony October 31, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Bravo, good sir!

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