Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 12.50 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 1.75 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
14 100 Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0-100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic. See the methodology.

header1 Score changes in 2022

  • National Democratic Governance rating declined from 1.25 to 1.00 due to hasty constitutional reforms and concentration of power in the hands of President Sadyr Japarov as a result, along with the diminished role of the parliament and outsized role of National Security Committee chief and Japarov ally Kamchybek Tashiev, as well as a crackdown on critical voices.
  • Electoral Process rating declined from 2.00 to 1.75 due to the unjustified delay in rerunning the parliamentary elections by over a year and the limited time allotted to prepare for the elections under the new electoral code.
  • Judicial Framework and Independence rating declined from 1.50 to 1.25 due to the reduced independence of the judiciary under the new constitution, which, among other things, allows the president to appoint the chairs of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts.
  • As a result, Kyrgyzstan’s Democracy Score declined from 1.86 to 1.75.

header2 Executive Summary

Kyrgyzstan’s political system has traditionally been dominated by the president despite formally being a parliamentary republic. In 2021, however, the democratic foundation of the country’s governance was undermined by President Sadyr Japarov, who codified the expansion of his powers through a sequence of legislative changes and a constitutional reform, opening a path towards more authoritarian rule.

Japarov, who seized power during the October 2020 political crisis triggered by rigged parliamentary elections, formally won the presidency in January 2021 and rushed to further consolidate power. In two constitutional referendums, he managed to garner just enough votes to revert the country from a parliamentary to a presidential form of governance and install top-down rule while limiting the powers of the executive and legislative branches. Some of the changes had an immediate effect, such as giving Japarov full control over the government as well as the power to appoint ministers, head of the cabinet (the position of prime minister was abolished), and regional governors.

Japarov’s large-scale and hasty political reforms were overshadowed by questions of their legitimacy. The Supreme Council (Kyrgyzstan’s unicameral parliament) had been serving under an arbitrarily prolonged mandate, from the annulling of the October 2020 elections until the newly elected lawmakers took their oath of office on December 29, 2021. As a result, the parliament effectively turned into a rubber stamp for the president’s wishes. Besides passing constitutional reforms, lawmakers supported several purely populist bills, namely, an anti-NGO law and another on combatting disinformation, which proved difficult to enforce but drew praise from Japarov’s supporters.

The president’s influence over the parliament and courts also allowed Japarov to achieve his longtime goal to nationalize Kumtor, the country’s largest gold mine operated by a Canadian company, Centerra Gold, thus dragging Kyrgyzstan into international arbitration.

The new legislature, elected on November 28 through a new mixed system of party lists and single-member constituencies, is dominated by established politicians and business elites. While Japarov maintains no ruling party, per se, his loyalists are plentiful in the smaller and weakened parliament.

Nepotism continued to permeate the Kyrgyz political system under Japarov. Two of his close allies, Talant Mamytov and Kamchybek Tashiev, are the new parliamentary speaker and chief of the National Security Committee, respectively. Tashiev’s influence, in particular, increased during the year as he assumed a leading role in a wide range of state affairs, from settlement talks on border demarcation,1 to negotiations with the Canadian investor over the nationalized gold mine,2 to going after the president’s critics and investigating top-level corruption. As of October, Tashiev controlled the entire law enforcement apparatus as a deputy head of government.

As part of its investigation into alleged corruption related to the Kumtor gold mine, the National Security Committee took into custody an unprecedented number of former prime ministers and ex-lawmakers and placed Centerra’s top managers on the wanted list.3

In a hallmark of his anticorruption policy, Tashiev allowed high-profile individuals suspected of corruption or money laundering to leave pretrial detention after “compensating damages to the state.”4 Civil society activists and journalists decried the lack of transparency and oversight over billions of soms in payments reportedly kept on the accounts of law enforcement agencies. Additionally, sponsors of newly constructed apartments for National Security Committee officers were shrouded in secrecy, while Tashiev himself lived in the presidential residence.

Japarov used the investigation into the October 2020 unrest and calls for violent seizure of power as an excuse to target critics of his constitutional reforms. Opposition politicians, civil society leaders, and political activists not only faced online harassment by the president’s supporters but also searches, detentions, and court-sanctioned wiretapping. Tashiev openly warned of reprisals against those “who smear the head of state with unfounded accusations on the internet.”5

Government reshuffles and political reforms were advanced against a national backdrop of severe droughts, rising food and fuel costs, and electricity shortages in the winter. In April, Kyrgyzstan saw its worst border conflict with Tajikistan in years, which forced thousands of people to flee. Kyrgyz citizens condemned the aggression of the neighboring military after attacks on several Kyrgyz villages on the disputed border, some 70 kilometers away from Vorukh, a Tajik enclave that Tashiev had imprudently proposed to swap for land. The public blamed Kyrgyzstan’s ruling tandem for nationalism, poor judgment, and its failure to defend their territory.

The democratic image of Kyrgyzstan on the international scene was further tarnished by suspicions that its new leaders had caved to Ankara’s pressure and colluded with Turkish intelligence in kidnapping the prominent Turkish educator and dual Turkish-Kyrgyz citizen Orhan İnandı, whom Turkey had accused of links with the Hizmet movement of controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. And the dispute with a Canadian investor over the seized gold mine cast a shadow on future foreign investment prospects.

Though still too early to call conclusive, President Japarov’s extensive reforms have already eroded the democratic character of Kyrgyzstan’s politics and governing institutions, which had long distinguished the country from its authoritarian neighbors.

header3 At a Glance

The democratic foundation of Kyrgyzstan’s national and local governance was eroded in 2021 as a result of hasty constitutional reforms that enshrined presidential dominance over the political system in the main law and reduced the powers of the government and parliament. National elites dominate local politics, and local budgets still rely on subsidies from the central budget. Law enforcement and the judiciary have long been subject to political influence and corruption and are used against the political opposition and government critics. The civic sector plays an active role in public life but is dependent on foreign funding and subject to online harassment, criminal prosecution, and court-sanctioned wiretapping. The media environment is vibrant, with strong independent outlets and investigative journalism, but their financial viability relies on advertising and donations. Corruption and nepotism remain prevalent, and anticorruption efforts are driven by political expediency rather than the desire for systemic change.

National Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches. 1.001 7.007
  • The democratic character of Kyrgyzstan’s national governance declined in 2021 as Sadyr Japarov, who has de facto governed the country since seizing power at the height of the October 2020 unrest, further consolidated and codified power towards a centralized, top-down presidential rule. Having formally won the presidency by a landslide1 at the start of the year, Japarov also secured enough votes in two national referendums to change the constitution. By doing so, he reverted the government from parliamentary to presidential rule and expanded presidential powers over the executive and judicial branches while also downsizing and weakening the legislative branch.
  • Under the new constitution,2 the president picks the government and has the right of legislative initiative. The president also has the authority to appoint judges at all levels, including chairs of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts,3 as well as half of the members of the Central Election Commission (CEC).
  • Government reshuffles are frequent in Kyrgyzstan, and 2021 was no exception. The constitutional changes abolished the position of prime minister and replaced it with the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, who is simultaneously the chief of the presidential administration. In October, Japarov appointed a new, predominantly male cabinet led by former economy minister Akylbek Japarov (no relation to the president),4 replacing Ulukbek Maripov who had been in office less than a year. And for the first time, the National Security Committee chief, Kamchybek Tashiev, became a deputy head of the cabinet overseeing the entire law enforcement apparatus.5 The Jogorku Kenesh (Supreme Council)—Kyrgyzstan’s unicameral parliament—functioned under an illegitimate mandate prolonged by over a year before the new parliament, elected in the November 28 rerun, was sworn in on December 29.6 During this prolonged term, the parliament was supposed to have diminished powers and only carry out ordinary functions, according to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.7 However, not only did lawmakers grant themselves an extra year in office after the annulled elections of October 2020, they also passed constitutional reforms that reshaped the national governance system at the behest of President Japarov.
  • In July, Japarov reportedly hosted lawmakers at his residence on two occasions, asking them to support a new electoral code and a bill on combating disinformation online (“law on fakes”), which passed shortly thereafter.8 9 In May, the parliament passed a bill that allowed Kyrgyz authorities to temporarily take over the Kumtor gold mine in the event that environmental and safety violations were detected.10 The next day, a Bishkek court ordered Kumtor Gold Company to repay damages of $3 billion for environmental violations.11 In under two weeks, the state appointed an external manager to the company, effectively paving the way for Japarov’s long-standing plan to nationalize the country’s largest gold mine operated by a Canadian public company, Centerra Gold, and setting off international arbitration.12
  • Kyrgyzstan’s political landscape changed significantly in 2021. Once prominent parties faded, and new names emerged. Mekenchil (Patriot), the party of Tashiev and Japarov, did not run in either the national or local elections. However, its members as well as other Tashiev-Japarov loyalists were sprinkled across the lists of four parties in the November rerun of the parliamentary elections.13 Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan, Ishenim (Trust), and Yntymak (Harmony) won the most seats14 and are viewed as progovernment. Journalists also uncovered business associates of the disgraced customs official Raiymbek Matraimov among the Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan candidates.15 Matraimov’s brother, ex-lawmaker Iskander Matraimov, was reelected in his constituency as an independent. The new legislature is dominated by a mix of reelected lawmakers, career politicians, and business elites. It is expected to pose even less of a constitutional check on the president due to its reduced powers and the majority of mandates held by progovernment factions.16 Talant Mamytov, Japarov’s close ally, was reelected as parliamentary speaker.17
  • The mixed electoral system and fewer number of seats up for grabs in the parliament (reduced from 120 to 90 just before the elections) made it harder for opposition and independent candidates to compete, especially women and civil society actors, without financial resources. The space for opposition shrank outside of the parliament as well, as critics of Japarov faced online harassment, criminal cases, detentions, searches, and court-sanctioned wiretapping (see “Judicial Framework and Independence”). National Security Committee chief Tashiev openly warned that “those who smear the head of state with unfounded accusations on the internet” would be held liable.18 In September, security officers briefly detained and questioned Orozaiym Narmatova, a vocal critic of Japarov, who was later elected to the parliament with Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan.19 In December, the leader of the opposition Ata Meken Socialist Party, Omurbek Tekebaev, who had claimed that the parliamentary elections were rigged, was assaulted by unidentified men.20
Electoral Process 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process. 1.752 7.007
  • The year 2021 was very eventful, with two referendums and three elections: presidential, parliamentary, and local. While the elections were generally well organized and free, they were characterized by low turnout, technical issues, and accusations of an uneven playing field and voter fraud.
  • In the presidential elections on January 10, the frontrunner, Sadyr Japarov, won 79.2 percent of the vote.1 In the simultaneous referendum,2 81.3 percent of voters supported his proposal to switch to the presidential form of governance, 10.9 percent voted for the parliamentary form to remain, and 4.46 percent voted against all forms. In total, 39 percent of Kyrgyz citizens eligible to vote cast their ballots, which exceeded the 30-percent threshold required for a referendum to be declared valid.
  • International and local monitors assessed the January 10 tandem vote as transparent and generally well organized. However, OSCE/ODIHR criticized the decision to hold the presidential elections and a referendum on the same day, since the referendum concerned the institution facing election.3
  • Among reasons for the low turnout, the Bishkek-based election monitoring nonprofit Common Cause4 cited a lack of public interest in elections and the absence of alternative ways to vote outside one’s registered address given the country’s high internal migration. Some 300,000 people were unable to vote as a result of the abolishment of Form 2, which in the past had allowed individuals to change their voting address but was scrapped after the October 2020 elections in a move to stop vote buying.
  • Two CEC members rejected the official results of the January 10 vote,5 claiming Japarov could not be registered as a candidate in the first place and citing the lack of transparency of his campaign funding, use of administrative resources, and unequal campaign conditions in his favor. Election monitors also highlighted Japarov’s dominance during the campaign. Despite formally relinquishing power as the former prime minister during the time of the campaign, Japarov enjoyed the advantage of positive coverage on four state television channels,6 in addition to his prominence on social media.
  • On April 11, Kyrgyz citizens headed back to the polls for another double vote: a nationwide referendum on the draft of a new constitution and elections to local councils. However, on May 12, the Bishkek Territorial Election Commission annulled the results of the vote,7 following similar decisions in Osh8 and Tokmok9 by the CEC due to violations, including mass reregistration of residence by voters, vote buying, and use of administrative resources. Three cities held a revote to the city councils. The editorial staff of Kloop, an independent news website, argued that the CEC should also cancel the results of the referendum since it was similarly affected by the fraud and the law requires citizens to vote at their registered address (see “Local Democratic Governance”).10
  • On June 30, the parliament approved new members of the CEC as the tenure of the previous cohort ended.11 According to the new constitution,12 the president nominates half of the commission’s 12 members and the parliament nominates the other half, raising concerns in civil society over the CEC’s independence. Previously, the president nominated only a third of members, while the rest of the nominations were divided between the majority coalition and the opposition.
  • On August 27, just two days before he set the date of the parliamentary elections,13 President Japarov signed amendments to the bill “On elections of the president of the Kyrgyz Republic and members of the Jogorku Kenesh,” proposed by him and adopted by the parliament on July 28.14 The bill reduced the number of lawmakers from 120 to 90, lowered the electoral threshold from 7 to 5 percent, lowered the gender quota, and introduced a mixed system of elections in single-member districts and on party lists.
  • The parliamentary elections under the new rules took place on November 28. The CEC registered 21 parties and 321 candidates in single-member districts. According to preliminary results, 6 parties passed the 5-percent threshold, and 34 out of 36 single-member districts had a winner. The CEC planned to decide in 2022 on whether to hold a revote in two single-member districts in the capital Bishkek where the majority had voted “against all,” but would make this call only after official results were announced.15
  • After polls closed on November 28, the CEC website experienced a glitch, displaying real-time results from the automatic counting of ballot boxes with a total vote tally at 150 percent.16 The results disappeared and then reappeared, this time showing fewer parties that passed the 5-percent threshold than earlier. This led to accusations of vote rigging by some losing opposition parties. The CEC later apologized for the technical issue in its new system.17
  • In a preliminary statement by Common Cause, the elections saw a number of serious issues, including low turnout (34 percent), glitches in the automated counting of ballot boxes, and procedural violations.18 The campaign overall was lackluster, and there were incidents of vote buying and use of local administrative resources.
  • In its preliminary report, OSCE/ODIHR called the parliamentary elections competitive and the voting process well organized but lacking in “meaningful voter engagement” due to “a stifled campaign, constitutional changes weakening parliament, and extensive legislative changes to key aspects of the election.” While the new electoral code was democratic, it was undermined by “the diminished separation of powers and independence of the judiciary” as a result of the constitutional changes, according to observers.19
Civil Society 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups. 3.003 7.007
  • Civil society in Kyrgyzstan is vibrant, with professional organizations (CSOs) working to address a wide range of societal issues, but the sector is still dependent on foreign funding and thus subject to nationalist attacks. While opposition to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and anti-Western rhetoric are not new to Kyrgyzstan, hate speech against civil society intensified in 2021.1 On social media, Japarov supporters insulted and threatened politicians, NGOs, media outlets, and civil activists who opposed the constitutional reforms, calling them “enemies of the people” and “instigators.”2
  • In July, President Japarov quietly signed a law that aims to impose extra bureaucratic burdens on NGOs.3 By the time it became known to the public, the law had been in force for over a week; it requires NGOs to file additional financial reports on funding sources and detailed spending that would be made public on the tax office’s website. Government-organized NGOs (GONGOs), which also receive foreign support, have been excluded from the law. The bill was earlier rejected by former president Sooronbay Jeenbekov in 2020. The NGO law had yet to be enforced by year’s end.
  • Civic activists Ulan Usoiun and Tilekmat Kurenov, and human rights defenders Rita Karasartova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov, were found on the court-sanctioned wiretapping list just days before the presidential elections.4 The Interior Ministry later claimed responsibility for the list (see “Judicial Framework and Independence.”)
  • Against this backdrop, a criminal case launched in the spring against Andrew Kuchins, president of American University of Central Asia (AUCA), was perceived as a continuing attack on Western academic institutions.5 The police summoned Kuchins for questioning over the illegal production of narcotic or psychotropic substances in April. The university administration claimed that pills found in a parcel for Kuchins were medication prescribed by his American doctor and shipped by a US pharmacy.6 Kuchins resigned from his post in June.7 In July, a Bishkek court found him guilty of a misdemeanor, fined him 60,000 soms ($700), and ordered his deportation.8
  • Kyrgyz authorities were suspected of colluding with Turkish intelligence in abducting Orhan İnandı, the prominent Turkish educator and founder of a network of schools across Kyrgyzstan, whom Turkey accused of links with the Hizmet movement of controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. İnandı, a dual Turkish-Kyrgyz citizen, went missing on May 31. On July 5, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced to the media that Turkey’s intelligence services had brought İnandı to Turkey.9 In video footage, he showed signs of torture and now faces 22.5 years in prison for running a so-called terrorist organization in Central Asia. Through his lawyer, İnandı claimed he had been kidnapped by three Kyrgyz assailants.10 Mixed messages from Kyrgyz officials created further confusion as to whether they had conceded to Turkey’s demands or were unaware of the special op: while National Security Committee chief Tashiev parroted the Turkish line about the terrorist organization, President Japarov said he would demand the release of the educator.11 After wide condemnation inside and outside the country, Kyrgyz authorities attempted to spin the rhetoric, claiming İnandı had illegally obtained a Kyrgyz passport, and opened a criminal probe.12
  • Human rights lawyer Kamil Ruziev has been under house arrest for over a year as his trial drags on.13 He was detained in May 2020 on accusations of forgery and tax evasion.
  • In August, a Bishkek court ruled that the decision of the State Penitentiary Service to drop its investigation into the death in custody of human rights defender Azimjon Askarov was illegal. Askarov, who had served a 10-year prison term that Human Rights Watch called wrongful, died on July 5, 2020, from complications of COVID-19. However, human rights organizations and his widow claimed he had been denied medical care.
  • Also in August, President Japarov vetoed a bill on trade unions that contradicted conventions of the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO). The move was welcomed by the European Union (EU).14
Independent Media 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media. 2.002 7.007
  • Kyrgyzstan’s media environment is vibrant, but non-state-funded media continue to rely financially on either politically affiliated owners, or advertising revenues and donor support. Some independent journalists and outlets accept donations from readers or viewers. However, the country lacks recent media research and audience-measurement data, particularly under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data and investigative journalism have surged in popularity, especially in the Kyrgyz language, owing to training and grants.
  • Social media continued to be the ground for online harassment and intimidation of independent journalists, often by trolls and fake accounts.1 But they also served as platforms for digital newsrooms and independent journalists. Investigative journalists Ali Toktakunov and Ydyrys Isakov (both previously with Radio Azattyk) and Bolot Temirov (previously with have launched YouTube channels.
  • During the presidential campaign, public broadcaster KTRK was accused by some candidates of political bias for allegedly defending the referendum and the presidential form of governance proposed by Japarov.2 The president himself declined to participate in the electoral debates, calling them “gossip.” KTRK also came under fire after a video of the December 30, 2020, debate disappeared from the broadcaster’s Facebook and YouTube pages.3 The video showed former national security chief Abdil Segizbaev making allegations of Japarov’s links to ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiev, ousted from power in 2005. KTRK cited technical issues and restored the video a few days later.4 Following the incident, albeit with no direct connection declared by the public channel, candidates were forbidden from “making negative statements or false allegations against other candidates” in the second round of debates. In January 2021, the US nonprofit National Democratic Institute, which financed the production of the presidential debates, ended its cooperation with KTRK, citing lack of impartiality.5 In April, KTRK was censured for airing a news segment about the poisonous plant wolfsbane as a treatment for COVID-19,6 which had been promoted by President Japarov on Facebook and then removed as misinformation.7
  • The use of troll armies to sway the political debate or smear political opponents and critics remained widespread, particularly during high-profile corruption cases and the constitutional referendum campaign.8 As in previous years, the attacks used anti-Western and anti-LGBT+ rhetoric to vilify independent journalists, media outlets, anticorruption activists, and the NGO sector as a whole.
  • In June, the parliament passed the controversial bill “on fakes,” which had been rejected in 2020 and reintroduced under a new name. The watchdog Media Policy Institute concluded that the bill could limit free speech online and be misused to stifle criticism of those in power under the pretext of combatting disinformation.9 Independent media outlets also found themselves falling within the scope of the NGO law (see “Civil Society”) since many of them are registered as nonprofits and receive funding from foreign donor organizations. However, both laws had yet to be enforced by year’s end.
  • The harassment of bloggers and journalists for allegedly inciting hatred or calling for unrest on social media remained a common practice. In February, the National Security Committee questioned Yulia Barabina, author of the Facebook blog Pravdorub, about user comments under her posts that were deemed offensive of Japarov, and also searched her apartment.10 In August, the Interior Ministry ended a pretrial probe into “petty hooliganism” against April TV journalist Kanat Kanimetov,11 which had been launched over his Facebook post lambasting the searches of Barabina’s residence as well as the homes of two workers on Abdil Segizbaev’s campaign.12 In September, the National Security Committee launched a pretrial investigation against Aslanbek Sartbaev, editor-in-chief of the Kyrgyz-language newspaper Asia News, for “inciting interregional hatred” in a Facebook post about the appointment of the former Osh mayor as acting mayor of Bishkek.13
  • In April, former customs official Raiymbek Matraimov withdrew his defamation lawsuit against Radio Azattyk,, Kloop, and journalist Ali Toktakunov14 following his release from prison (see “Corruption”).
Local Democratic Governance 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities. 1.752 7.007
  • Following the local elections, and the country’s transition to a new government structure with the president at the top, there were major reshuffles of local officials. Overall, local politics were dominated by national parties, and the reform of local self-governance would further increase presidential control over local decision-making.
  • Elections to 28 city and 420 village councils took place on April 11 after being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Mekenchil (Patriot), the party of President Japarov and National Security Committee chief Tashiev, did not run in the parliamentary and local elections, claiming there would no longer be a ruling party.1 However, two new parties—Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan and Ishenim—were widely associated with the ruling tandem.2 3 The first is led by Aibek Matkerimov, former parliamentary candidate for Mekenchil, and the second is co-chaired by Rysbai Amatov, who initially ran with Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan in the April elections for Bishkek city council. In July, Amatov was elected on the Ishenim party list.
  • Among the April elections, the biggest contest took place in Bishkek, with 27 parties running for local council. Three parties⁠—Emgek, Ak Bata, and NDPK—won their races. Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan came in fourth. However, in May, election authorities annulled the results in Bishkek, as well as in Osh and Tokmok, due to such violations as mass reregistration of voters’ residence and use of administrative resources.4 Emgek, Ak Bata, and NDPK were removed from the elections, and their votes were annulled. Yet the results of the simultaneous national referendum on the draft of the new constitution were not annulled, leading to allegations that the votes for the three winning parties were used to secure a 30-percent turnout required to validate the referendum, while they were cleared out of the way for loyalist parties.5
  • The revote in three cities on July 11 was also marred by irregularities and scandals.6 In Bishkek, Ak Bata and NDPK decided not to run. Emgek, again, won the most votes, while Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan took second place and Ishenim third.7
  • Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan also won the most mandates, 19 out of 45, in the city council of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city.8
  • The April local elections were the first to enforce a 30-percent quota for women. According to the CEC, the number of women in village councils rose by nearly four times.9 However, the overall number of women in local governance remains low and rarely exceeds 30 percent. Gender quotas are still viewed as an unfair advantage. In Orok, a village in Chui Oblast, male candidates for local council protested the 30-percent quota for women10 after two women received mandates even though they won fewer votes than men. In another incident, the CEC annulled the permission of the Osh Territorial Election Commission to remove dozens of women candidates from the party lists of Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan and Bizdin Kyrgyzstan, including those who won mandates in the local elections, and replace them with men.11
  • Between October 2020 and August 2021, the capital Bishkek ran through 10 acting mayors.12 The longest served for nearly six months, the shortest for just one day.
  • On August 26, the city councils of Bishkek, Osh, and Tokmok elected mayors. In Bishkek, it was the city’s last acting mayor and a nominee from the Cabinet of Ministers, Aibek Junushaliev.13 Almaz Mambetov, Japarov’s pick, was elected mayor of Osh.14
  • In July, Japarov appointed his representatives in the regions.15
  • In October, the parliament passed the president’s bill on local state administrations and local self-governance with the required minimum of 80 votes. As media reported, the session was held behind closed doors, and some lawmakers voted for their absent colleagues, which goes against parliamentary procedure in the case of constitutional laws.16 Previously, appointing mayors was a prerogative of the local city councils, elected by citizens. However, under the new law, signed by Japarov on October 21,17 the president now appoints heads of the local state administrations (akims) as well as mayors of the two largest cities, Bishkek and Osh, and mayors of regional capitals. In October, the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, Akylbek Japarov, announced plans to establish regional development to support local economic and social projects and to decrease their dependence on central government subsidies.18
Judicial Framework and Independence 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions. 1.251 7.007
  • Kyrgyzstan’s judiciary and law enforcement system have long been known for corruption and serving political interests. Past efforts to reform both have failed to yield results. In 2021, President Japarov embarked on a new reform, launching a mass revision (“inventory”) of hundreds of laws by year’s end1 in order to eliminate conflicts, scrap outdated legislation, and harmonize statutes with the constitution. However, local legal groups2 and Human Rights Watch3 called for an extension of the time frame for the reform and proper consultations with civil society.
  • The new constitution limits judicial independence. The Constitutional Chamber was separated from the Supreme Court, a move welcomed by the Venice Commission as “a fundamental positive change to the judicial system.”4 At the same time, the commission concluded that the new constitution contradicts international norms on maintaining judicial independence given the president’s new powers to appoint judges at all levels. Accordingly, the president appoints judges of local courts nominated by the Judicial Council.5
  • The president is now empowered to appoint the chairs of both the Constitutional and Supreme Courts for five-year terms with the approval of at least half of the parliament. He also appoints deputy chairs nominated by the chairs. The Supreme Court chair, in turn, appoints chairs and their deputies of local courts for five-year terms.
  • On March 31, the parliament supported Japarov’s proposal to suspend the Supreme Court chair Gulbara Kalieva due to an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged corruption.6 Kalieva was stripped of judge immunity. National Security Committee chief Tashiev claimed that Kalieva had been implicated in a corruption scheme during the development and implementation of an automated information system for local courts. Kalieva denied any wrongdoing. The Supreme Court, too, denied that its leadership could be involved in corruption since the project was under the oversight of international organizations. The project donor, the EU office in Kyrgyzstan, stated that the Supreme Court had not been involved in the tender, and that a consortium of international organizations conducted the tender for subcontractors and controlled the execution of the project.7
  • On April 22, the Supreme Court elected Nurgul Bakirova as the new court chair.8 Bakirova was one of three Supreme Court judges who upheld the motion by Japarov’s attorney for a retrial in the case of kidnapping (of Issyk-Kul governor Emil Kaptagayev) and overturning Japarov’s prison sentence of 11.5 years9 on the day of his release in October 2020. This was hardly the only appointment that raised conflict-of-interest questions about the president’s judicial reform.10 In December, Japarov appointed his former attorney, Sharabiddin Toktosunov, as a judge on the Bishkek city court; Toktosunov denied he got the job thanks to his presidential connection.
  • On April 1, Japarov disbanded the council on judicial reform, then established and chaired a new council on improving the work of the judiciary and law enforcement system. As an advisory body, it was introduced with the expressed intent to review and offer improvements to criminal laws.11
  • In June, the Prosecutor General submitted drafts of the heavily amended criminal code and criminal procedure code to the parliament. Legal experts assessed these changes as reverting to older, ineffective practices that would be repressive to ordinary citizens and carry risks of corruption.12 13 Nevertheless, the amendments were passed by the parliament in July14 and returned by the president with his objections in September.15 On November 16, the president’s office announced that Japarov had signed the criminal and criminal procedure codes on October 28.16
  • In late August, it was reported that a Bishkek court had sanctioned the wiretapping of some 100 citizens between January 6 and February 10 at the request of the Interior Ministry, allegedly as part of a pretrial investigation into the takeover of the parliament building during the October 2020 protests.17 The scandal raised questions of possible breach of procedural laws and the constitutional right to privacy. The surveillance list included opposition politicians and civic activists as well as several lawyers who did not participate in the protests but were vocal critics of the constitutional reforms, along with three parliamentary deputies, who have immunity from being searched and prosecuted without the parliament’s approval on a submission from the Prosecutor General.18 Both the Prosecutor General’s Office19 and the Pervomaisky district court20 claimed the decision was legal.
Corruption 1.00-7.00 pts0-7 pts
Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives. 1.502 7.007
  • While President Japarov pledged to fight corrupt officials and protect investors, state anticorruption efforts have been marred by controversy and driven by political expediency rather than the desire for systemic changes.
  • The high-profile corruption trial of the former deputy chief of the state customs, Raiymbek Matraimov, who was at the center of a series of bombshell journalistic investigations1 and anticorruption protests in 2019–20, ended with a fine and his release. On February 11, he pleaded guilty before a Bishkek court to running corruption schemes and was fined 260,000 soms ($3,000).2 Earlier, National Security Committee chief Tashiev announced that Matraimov had repaid 2 billion soms to the state in the form of cash and real estate, adding that nine apartments would be confiscated by officers of his agency.3
  • A week after the first trial, Matraimov was detained again on money-laundering charges.4 However, the National Security Committee closed the case in mid-April, claiming they had found no evidence of assets abroad, although investigative journalists had uncovered Matraimov’s luxury property in Dubai.5
  • At the start of the year, detentions and criminal cases against several well-known businesspersons sparked outcry from business associations over growing regulatory pressure and prosecution by law enforcement agencies.6 The State Service on Combating Economic Crimes (Financial Police) was liquidated in March7 and the Anti-Corruption Service, under the National Security Committee, in June.8 Both agencies had been deemed ineffective and intrusive, but their closure did not reduce state pressure on business.9
  • Moreover, the National Security Committee retained its power to investigate corruption with a new department, the Main Directorate for high-priority cases.10 The Kumtor gold mine was at the center of two large-scale corruption investigations: the effort to nationalize the mine from its Canadian developer, Centerra Gold, and a probe into alleged corruption during its development. In May, Kyrgyz authorities appointed an external administrator in response to alleged environmental violations. In September, the National Security Committee launched a criminal investigation against top executives of Centerra Gold, suspecting them of embezzling $200 million in 2013.11 As part of another investigation, the National Security Committee detained four former prime ministers, one ex-deputy prime minister, five lawmakers, and a former chief of staff in connection with the Kumtor probe, seen by many as politically motivated.
  • The National Security Committee stirred controversy by introducing a practice publicly dubbed as kusturizatsiya (from the Kyrgyz verb kursturuu meaning “to induce vomit”) by which individuals suspected of corruption could be released from pretrial detention after compensating damages to the state.12 The sum of the compensation was decided by the committee, not a court. For example, in March, the National Security Committee closed several criminal cases against former prime minister Omurbek Babanov after he “voluntarily transferred 100 million soms (over $1.1 million) to the state budget.13 However, a lack of transparency raised questions on how the amount of compensation was calculated and whether the repaid money and property actually went to the state budget. In September, lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov filed a request for information to the Ministry of Economy and Finance that confirmed the compensated funds from the alleged corruption remained on the accounts of law enforcement agencies. Toktakunov alleged that a lack of oversight created an opportunity for embezzlement. The committee called these allegations a lie, saying the money would be transferred to the state budget after a court delivered its decisions on the corruption cases.14
  • In July, Japarov established the Anti-Corruption Business Council, an advisory body with no law enforcement functions.15 The council included a mix of top-ranking government officials, including Tashiev, and representatives of business associations.16 Convening for the first time on November 16, the council formally pledged to develop a national anticorruption strategy for 2021–24.17 In addition, Japarov urged citizens to help fight corruption by reporting it. On November 24, the government approved the procedure for monetary reward to individuals who report corruption.18 The reward amounts to 10 percent of the damage that a perpetrator repays after their wrongdoing is confirmed by a special commission and court decision. There were no reports of enforcement of this practice by year’s end.

Author: Bermet Talant is a Kyrgyz journalist.

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