Evolving of the Kyrgyz Electoral System since 1991
Given the fact that none of the international declarations, conventions or covenants establishes a type of electoral or party systems, which is more democratic than others, it is a sole prerogative of a sovereign state to decide, which system to follow - majoritarian, proportional representation, mixed, or any other – while starting or continuing the process of democratization. The problem is that incumbent politicians can manipulate the electoral system in such a way as to ensure victory during next elections to preserve their power. Kyrgyzstan is precisely such a case. Although, during 14 years of country’s independence the electoral system has undergone major transformations three times, the current electoral system can hardly be named democratic. Furthermore, after the Kyrgyz opposition took over power on 24th March, 2005, one of the first requirements of the civil society was revision of the constitution, including reformation of the electoral system.
Having come across The New International IDEA Handbook on Electoral System Design, it became increasingly interesting for me to make an attempt to design the electoral system for Kyrgyzstan to make it more democratic. Apart from using the handbook on Electoral System Design, the methods of research include analysis of reports of international organizations such as OSCE and ICG related to the topic.
Hypothesis of the author is the following. In order to ‘democratize’ Kyrgyzstan, i.e. to make the decision-making process more inclusive, to ensure that majority of voices is heard, and to secure that regional, clan and minorities’ interests are taken into account, it is necessary, inter alia, to introduce Parallel electoral system, i.e. half of the seats in the parliament is to be elected by FPTP run-off in single-member constituencies while the other half of the seats is to be elected by PR closed party lists.
Evolving of the Kyrgyz Electoral System since 1991
Before going deep into discussions, which electoral system is to function in ‘democratic’ Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to look back to the historical development of electoral system in this state since receiving its independence in 1991. Right after break up of the Soviet Union the Kyrgyz parliament consisted of 350 deputies, “…who had been elected in February 1990 in single-member districts using a two-round voting system.” In 1994, by approving the new constitution by referendum the unicameral parliament was replaced by the bicameral parliament (Legislative Assembly and Assembly of People’s Representatives) with the total of 105 deputies. As Eugene Huskey, the researcher, who provided the case study on Kyrgyzstan to IDEA handbook, points out,
“…in the parliamentary elections of February 1995 and February 2000, the entire Assembly of People’s Representatives and 45 members of the Legislative Assembly were elected in 45 single-member districts using two-round voting. The remaining 15 members of the Legislative Assembly were elected by List PR using closed lists and a single nationwide district with a 5 per cent formal threshold…For the 15 PR seats, each party had the right to put forward a list of 30 persons, and in cases where candidates from the list also stood in single-member districts and won, their names were removed from the party list.”
However, with all respect to Eugene Huskey, it must be noted that in 1995 the voters elected 35 deputies to Legislative Assembly and 70 deputies to Assembly of People’s Representatives according to constitution of that time. Only after amendments of the constitution in 1998, the membership of the Legislative Assembly was reduced to 60 people, whereas the membership of APR was increased up to 45 deputies. According to the recent amendments of the Kyrgyz constitution, which was approved by referendum in 1993, in 2005, Jogorku Kenesh (the Kyrgyz parliament) became again unicameral and 75 MPs were elected by FPTP run-off in single-member constituencies. So, now we can clearly see that the electoral system and, consequently, structure of the Kyrgyz parliament changed every five years. Because the Kyrgyz constitution is again under revision, there is a great deal of certainty that in 2010 the Kyrgyz parliament will be again elected according to the new rules.
The question is: what kind of rules should be used or invented for the Kyrgyz parliament in order to make sure that this system will satisfy needs of as many parties in the society as possible, so that the new system doesn’t spur up discontent among population and civil society? Kyrgyzstan is a clan society with the more or less clear North-South divide and where there are Uzbek, Russian, Uighur and many other minorities. It is a country, where women are traditionally not involved in high-level decision-making process but are urgently needed in the Kyrgyz parliament to balance the male representation. Kyrgyzstan has many options in theory but in practice many of the theoretically possible ways of elections will fail due to the facts that the Kyrgyz system is heavily corrupt; tribalism is still a meaningful factor for the electorate; and, finally, some election systems (like FPTP single-member constituency without a second round) would simply not be accepted by the Kyrgyz society as free and fair and this can become a trigger for another conflict in the society.
 Reynolds, Reily, Ellis, p.55.
 See article 54 of the Kyrgyz Constitution of 16/02/1996
 See article 54 of the Kyrgyz Constitution of 21/10/1998