Almazbek Atambaev may need to talk to two main rivals who have cried
foul in election.  By Timur Toktonaliev

district, Tajik men have taken to specifically Kyrgyz custom of
“stealing” brides.  By Fayzia Ahmadova

**** NEW 

LATEST PROJECT REVIEWS: http://iwpr.net/make-an-impact/project-reviews

VACANCIES: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies


CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia

CENTRAL ASIA RADIO: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia/central-asia-radio



STORY BEHIND THE STORY: http://iwpr.net/report-news/the-story-behind-the-story



**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************


After landslide victory, Almazbek Atambaev may need to talk to two
main rivals who have cried foul in election.

By Timur Toktonaliev

The outright victory of Almazbek Atambaev in Kyrgyzstan’s presidential
election has avoided a widely-expected second round of voting in which
he would have faced a strong challenge from the second- and
third-placed candidates. But he is likely to offer one or both of them
a senior position in order to neutralise possible protests.

According to results from the October 30 election which are still
preliminary but with almost all ballots counted, 55-year-old Atambaev
won 63 per cent of the vote, sailing past the 50-per cent mark he
needed to win outright.

Some way behind, his nearest rivals were former speaker of parliament
Adakhan Madumarov with close to 15 per cent of the vote and Ata-Jurt
party leader Kamchybek Tashiev with just over 14 per cent. Unlike
Atambaev, both men hail from the south of Kyrgyzstan, a country where
regional allegiances are an important factor in politics.

The other 13 candidates were far behind, none getting over one per
cent of the vote.

Turnout was slightly more than 60 per cent of the three million
eligible voters, according to the Central Election Commission, CEC.

Until stepping down to stand as a candidate, Atambaev served as prime
minister in the coalition government formed following an October 2010
parliamentary election. Before that, he was part of the interim
administration that replaced President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was
ousted by mass protests in April 2010.

Analysts say Atambaev, a wealthy businessman, owes his victory to a
well-funded campaign, the high profile he enjoyed as prime minister,
and a very high turnout in his stronghold in northern Kyrgyzstan.

Sheradil Baktygulov, a Bishkek-based expert on public administration,
said Atambaev might not be the ideal winner, but things could have
been a lot worse given a field of candidates that included Kyrgyz
nationalists and complete outsiders.

This election is the first peaceful transfer of presidential power
that Kyrgyzstan has experienced. Bakiev’s predecessor, the
long-serving Askar Akaev, was forced out by similar protests in 2005.
The outgoing interim president, Roza Otunbaeva, was barred from
standing in this election but showed no inclination to change the
rules to enable her to do so.

The vote also marks the conclusion of a process of political reforms
ensuing from a constitutional referendum held in late June 2010, which
turned Kyrgyzstan into the first Central Asian republic where it is
parliament, not the president, that holds most of the reins of power.

The fact that the election went off without violence is an achievement
in itself, given that southern Kyrgyzstan was rocked to the core by
several days of ethnic violence in early June last year.

Assuming the CEC confirms his victory, Atambaev’s most pressing
concern is likely to be calming his two principal rivals, who have
already said they will contest the outcome.

Madumarov called for a recount, saying he had information that
Atambaev got just under 50 per cent while he himself won 32 per cent
of the vote – enough to trigger a second round. But he promised not to
stage public protests, and instead said he would follow “the legal
route” to pressing his claim.

Tashiev called for the results to be annulled, warning that if this
did not happen, the authorities would be “punished” by the Kyrgyz

There were reports of around 300 protesters gathering in the southern
town of Jalalabad where support for Tashiev is strong. A similar
number blocked a highway that links the south and north of the
country. But according to one eyewitness, a journalist who asked not
to be named, police kept things well under control and the protests
fizzled out in a couple of hours.

“The situation has been calm in the town today. This [protest] action
didn’t cause any alarm. There was no panic. All the shops are open,”
the journalist said, noting that the regional government offices were
under police guard but no additional forces had been drafted in.

Tashiev’s spokesman distanced him from the protests, saying these were
just ordinary people expressing their own views without any prompting.

“He did not call on people to stage a rally or block the road. We are
not going to talk to them and urge them to calm down,” Nurgazy
Anarkulov told the Knews.kg news agency.

In the south’s main city Osh, an even smaller protest involving around
30 people took place. Gathering in the central square, they claimed
that the election was “dirty” and accused Atambaev of using the
resources of the state to help secure his victory.

In an apparent attempt to appease Tashiev and Madumarov, Atambaev was
quick to suggest they might take up posts in government. He called the
two men “real politicians” who would not want to stir up trouble by
organising protests – contrasting them with other, unnamed figures who
he said might have an interest in instability.

“All problems need to be resolved through negotiations. From now on,
there will be no revolutions in Kyrgyzstan,” Atambaev said.

Baktygulov said threats to contest the election results should be seen
as a manoeuvre by losing candidates hoping to extract some advantage.

“I think the losing candidates’ followers had thought in advance about
possible scenarios following the election,” he said. “What’s happening
now is that one of these scenarios is being enacted. It signals the
start of a negotiating process.”

Baktygulov said that while the losers had an interest in recouping
something from the election, Atambaev would gain as well by bringing
powerful southern politicians on board.

But he predicted that only one of the two would get an offer – perhaps
the job of prime minister, or deputy prime minister. But he doubted
that either candidate would try to build a protest movement on the
streets if he was the one spurned.

“If Tashiev is left out, he will quietly go back to his parliamentary
duties, lead the [Ata-Jurt] faction and work on scoring points in
parliament by criticising Atambaev,” Baktygulov said, adding that
Madumarov would also be active in opposition and would be busy laying
the ground for the next parliamentary election, due in 2015.

Although election monitors from the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe said the vote left them “cautiously optimistic
about the future of democracy in Kyrgyzstan”, there were allegations
of abuses.

“Candidate registration was inclusive, giving voters a wide choice,
and the campaign was open and respected fundamental freedoms,” the
OSCE team said in a statement, noting also “significant
irregularities” such as missing names on voter lists, ballot-box
stuffing, multiple and family voting, vote buying, and the busing in
of voters.

Dinara Oshurakhunova, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil
Society, also spoke of “serious violations” in the electoral process,
and called on the CEC to investigate reports of problems like
ballot-stuffing. But she too concluded that overall, voting was
competitive and transparent.

The CEC’s deputy head Gulnura Jurabaeva accepted that some
irregularities took place but said they were being investigated.

“We acknowledge that violations did take place at some polling
stations, where there were even local election commission members who
worked in support of certain candidates,” she said.

Irina Karamushkina, a member of parliament from Atambaev’s Social
Democratic Party, said she had checked up on claims that his
campaigners had tried to bribe election monitors, and found them to be
without substance – and possibly even a deliberate attempt to
discredit him.

If there was wrongdoing on anyone’s part, she said, it was not
widespread enough to affect the overall outcome.

Karamushkina said that while losing candidates had every right to
lodge complaints about the voting process, they ought to remember that
they too had made pledges to work for peace, stability and order in

“This was a victory for the people, not for Atambaev,” she said.
“People have really entrusted him with their country and its future.
The important thing is that he now has to justify that trust. We’ll
see in six years’ time.”

Timur Toktonaliev is IWPR editor in Kyrgyzstan.


In remote northeastern district, Tajik men have taken to specifically
Kyrgyz custom of “stealing” brides.

By Fayzia Ahmadova

Abducting the woman you want to marry – with or without her permission
– is a well-known if illegal tradition in Central Asia, but typical
only among the Kyrgyz and Kazaks. Now it is taking off among Tajiks,
apparently borrowed from their neighbours.

In the eastern Jirgatal district of Tajikistan, bride-theft survives
among the Kyrgyz who form the majority population here, despite every
effort to stamp it out under Soviet rule.

A local resident called Qaisiddin said Tajiks in Jirgatal has started
copying the practice.

“Our neighbour was abducted on her wedding day by the guy who was in
love with her. No one knows where he took her. But everyone knows that
wherever they are be hiding, they will come out soon,” he said.

When he was young, he said, he often heard stories about such
abductions – but only among Kyrgyz neighbours.

Now, he said, “The Tajiks think that if the Kyrgyz in neighbouring
villages kidnap their brides, then why can’t we? That’s how it is
turning into a new custom.”

Kyrgyz bride-theft stems from a nomadic tradition where the young man
presents his new wife’s family with a fait accompli and avoids payment
of “kalym”, the marriage “price” which can often be exorbitant.

In modern Kyrgyzstan, the tradition is often distorted so that a young
woman is kidnapped off the street by a passing acquaintance or
complete stranger, held against her will, and coerced into marriage as
the least shameful option left to her.

Qaisiddin insisted that among the Tajiks of Jirgatal, it was always consensual.

“For us, it isn’t kidnapping, it brings two loving hearts together,” he added.

IWPR interviews in Jirgatal suggest bride-theft has become a definite trend.

“Tajik girls, too, are being kidnapped in our district, because we
live alongside the Kyrgyz and we’ve adopted some of their traditions,”
Daler Safarov, a journalist with the local Safina TV station said.

The Tajik authorities do not seem to be addressing the issue as it
appears that most cases, as Qaisiddin suggested, are really consensual
elopements. In any case, parents are reluctant to report cases to the
police – however unhappy they are about the marriage – because of the
shame that publicity would bring down on the family.

A Jirgatal resident who did not want to be named described how his
brother abducted his childhood sweetheart, returning to the village
three days before her arranged marriage and eloping with her. The
couple went to a Muslim cleric who performed the religious wedding

He said they were forced to arrange the “abduction” because the
woman’s family – who have since disowned her – disapproved of her

Mahmadullo Asadulloev, spokesman for the interior ministry in the
capital Dushanbe, told IWPR there were no reports of abducted brides
case on the police records.

“If such a case does occur and the girl’s family inform the police
that she was abducted against her will, it will be treated as a
serious offence,” he said, adding that under Tajik law, such cases
would be prosecuted as a form of kind of kidnapping.

The increase in bride-thefts alarms some commentators, who say it is
alien to Tajik culture and could lead to non-consensual abductions, as
in Kyrgyzstan.

Temur Oksanov, an analyst from Tajikistan who is Kyrgyz by background,
warned that if coercive abductions became common, it would have a
serious social impact, and could lead to a rise in suicides among
married women – already a common response to abusive marriages.

Most commentators agree the practice is unlikely to spread from
Jirgatal to areas where there is no Kyrgyz influence.

“If you kidnap a girl here, it isn’t as shameful an act as it would be
in, for example, [neighbouring] Garm or Tajikabad,” Safarov said. “If
someone abducted a bride in those districts, he’d be killed

Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, a political analyst in Dushanbe, said most
people in Tajikistan would oppose the kidnapping of brides.

It was only in Jirgital, where Kyrgyz and Tajiks lived alongside each
other and sometimes intermarried, that two traditions could become
intertwined, he said. Elsewhere in Tajikistan, the usual solution for
young couples whose parents opposed their marriage was to go through
the Muslim wedding rite in secret, and then tell their families.

“But kidnapping a girl and then making the fact public is just not
done here. In Kyrgyzstan, a girl can be ‘stolen’ on her way to work or
in some public place regardless of whether she consents,” he said. “In
Tajikistan, though, even if the girl does give her consent, it isn’t
seen as acceptable and it will be condemned by this patriarchal
society. Her father and mother – especially the father – will never
take back a daughter who has shamed them.”

Fayzia Ahmadova is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan.

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a
unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local
journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across
Central Asia on a weekly basis.

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty,
Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and
encourages better local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund.
The service is published online in English and Russian.

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or
of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing
Editor: Yigal Chazan; Senior Editor and Acting Central Asia Director:
John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule Mukhametrakhimova.

Borden; Head of Programmes: Sam Compton.

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

IWPR – Giving Voice, Driving Change

IWPR - Europe, 48 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 20 7831 1030

IWPR – United States, 1325 G Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC
20005, United States
Tel: +1 202 449 7717

1515 Broadway, 11th Floor, New York, New York 10036, United States
Tel: +1 212 520 3950

Stichting IWPR Nederland, Eisenhowerlaan 77 K, 2517 KK Den Haag, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 70 338 9016

For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, go to: http://iwpr.net/

ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2009 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

This electronic mail message and any attached files are intended solely for the 
named recipients and may contain confidential and proprietary business 
information of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) and its 
affiliates. If you are not the named addressee, you should not disseminate, 
distribute or copy this e-mail.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting. 48 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK. 
Registered with charitable status in the United Kingdom (charity reg. no: 
1027201, company reg. no: 2744185); the United States under IRS Section 
501(c)(3); and The Netherlands as a charitable foundation.

Reply via email to