Consolidated Authoritarian Regime
DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage 11.31 100
DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score 1.68 7
Last Year's Democracy Percentage & Status
13 100 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 Authors

Bermet Talant

header2 Score changes in 2023

  • Civil Society rating declined from 3.00 to 2.75 as a result of a blanket ban on public gatherings in Bishkek imposed in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as detentions of activists, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians for peaceful dissent against a border deal agreement with Uzbekistan.
  • Independent Media rating declined from 2.00 to 1.75 due to the rise in legal attacks against journalists and independent media outlets that are critical of the government, including the deportation of investigative journalist Bolot Temirov and the blocking of the website for RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, Azattyk.

As a result, Kyrgyzstan’s Democracy Score declined from 1.75 to 1.68.

header3 Executive Summary

After his sweeping constitutional reform in 2021, Kyrgyz president Sadyr Japarov consolidated control over the executive branch of power all the way down to local governance, and also oversaw key appointments in the judiciary. His close ally Kamchybek Tashiev, chief of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), extended his coercive influence and repression to a wide range of spheres, from going after critics, to investigating high-profile corruption, to pushing through unpopular initiatives, such as casino legalization and a controversial border demarcation agreement with Uzbekistan. Despite rumors of cracks in their alliance, the ruling tandem still appeared strong at year’s end.

National governance under the Japarov-Tashiev duo continued to take a repressive, authoritarian turn. Legislative initiatives and anticorruption efforts were driven by populism and political expediency rather than a push for systemic changes, and intermittently disregarded legal procedures and even the constitution.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Kyrgyz government tried to maintain a veneer of neutrality while avoiding antagonizing its longtime strategic partner in the Kremlin. At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Kyrgyzstan abstained from two votes on Ukraine.1 In the capital Bishkek, authorities banned all public gatherings outside of the Russian Embassy as well as the Ala-Too central square, the Supreme Council (parliament), and the presidential administration building. Human Rights Watch and the Kyrgyz Ombudswoman called the ban unconstitutional. A number of pro-Ukraine picketers were arrested or fined for disobeying the police, including well-known human rights defenders. In an interview, President Japarov said that rallies in front of embassies must cease because Kyrgyzstan “needed to maintain respectful relations with all countries.” State media took little notice of the ongoing war, and the few reports that appeared described it as a “situation” and “events” in Ukraine.

At the same time, ordinary Kyrgyz citizens were not prevented from sending humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian army and people, and independent media and journalists extensively covered the war and even traveled to Ukraine for reporting—much to the discontent of the domestic pro-Russian circles.2 Ahead of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations, GKNB called upon citizens not to display a Z symbol, which had been used by supporters of the Russian war.3 In August, the newly appointed Kyrgyz ambassador to Ukraine presented his credentials to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.4

In stark contrast to Kazakh and Uzbek leaders, who sought to distance themselves from the Kremlin, President Japarov signaled his commitment to Russia not only as Kyrgyzstan is an economic partner but also as a loyal backer for any political, military, or security assistance the Kyrgyz government might seek. Throughout the year, he conducted multiple phone calls with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and the two held talks at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in September and at the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) summit in Bishkek in December. At the latter, Putin and Japarov made a joint, albeit vague, announcement on consolidating measures to promote information security on the internet.5

Despite the inflation and depreciation of the Kyrgyz som (KGS) in the early months of the war, the Kyrgyz economy proved to be more resilient than expected, according to the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.6 This economic growth has been supported by the increase in remittances from Kyrgyz migrants abroad, particularly in Russia, as well as monies brought by Russian citizens who fled the military draft or economic sanctions in Russia by coming to Kyrgyzstan.

In mid-September, a new border conflict with Tajikistan erupted, causing a vast destruction of civilian infrastructure and displacing more than 130,000 people on the Kyrgyz side. Speaking at the UN General Assembly days later, Japarov accused Tajikistan of armed aggression and violating international agreements.7

Civil society once again stepped up to mobilize during the crisis, just as it had done during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers and civic activists collected humanitarian aid for those affected in the armed conflict and raised funds to buy equipment for the Kyrgyz border guard service.8 Independent media, fact checkers, and bloggers gave Kyrgyzstan the upper hand in the information space in contrast to Tajikistan’s tightly controlled media and speech.

The government, however, continued to vilify the sector, which it saw as interfering in political processes “in the interest of foreign powers,” thus undermining public trust in civil society. A draft bill put forward by the presidential administration could make it significantly harder for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and independent media that receive foreign donor funding to operate in the country. If passed, it would introduce a state registry of “foreign representative” NGOs, akin to Russia’s “foreign agent law,” as well as burdensome bureaucratic requirements and penalties.

Moreover, the presidential administration proposed legislation that would further limit free press (including a new bill on mass media) and restrict public access to information on procurement by state companies or income of civil servants and politicians. This would not only create favorable conditions for political corruption but also prevent investigative journalists and civic groups from exposing it.

The government also stepped up repressive tactics against the political opposition, independent media, and bloggers outspokenly critical of Japarov and Tashiev’s policies, often under the pretext of countering misinformation and “fake patriots.”

The official practice of summoning individuals for questioning over their social media posts or bringing charges of inciting hatred, plotting mass unrest, and сalls for violent seizure of power remained widespread during the year. In one case, a 19-year-old student was put on trial for reposting an old video where Japarov’s political rival criticized his plan to develop an iron ore deposit. In other cases, Kyrgyz security services appeared to cooperate with Russian authorities to have several outspoken critics of the ruling tandem’s policies arrested in Russia and flown to Kyrgyzstan.

In the fall, more than 20 people, including prominent human rights defenders, opposition politicians, activists, and former lawmakers, were detained for months and accused of civil unrest for protesting a secretive border demarcation agreement with Uzbekistan. Lawmakers who voted against ratifying the agreement reported receiving pressure from the presidential administration. Distrust of the government and its lack of transparency around the proposed agreement sparked indignation among citizens over the transfer of the Kempir-Abad water reservoir to the neighboring country in a time when tensions over water resources and disputed borders were already inflamed.

Amid mass public arrests, authorities blocked the website of Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), under the 2021 controversial law on protecting the public from false information. The law became a convenient tool for authorities to go after naysaying media as the Ministry of Culture issued demands to internet providers to block news websites for two months without a court order or due review process of materials in question. Formally, Azattyk was blocked for refusing to remove a news report about border clashes with Tajikistan that quoted a Tajik official. Its bank accounts were also blocked, its broadcast on the national radio and television was suspended, and its reporters were stripped of their parliamentary accreditation. The local branch of the US-funded broadcaster has long been a thorn in the side of Kyrgyz authorities and subjected to a continuous smear campaign.

The opposition channel Next TV was taken off the air, and two of its journalists were put on trial for doing their work. One of them, Bolot Temirov, was arrested on multiple charges shortly after publishing an investigation into a corruption scheme implicating relatives of Tashiev. He was found guilty of forging documents to obtain his Kyrgyz passport, which had been revoked earlier during an ongoing investigation. He was deported from Kyrgyzstan to Russia straight out of the courtroom, without the right to appeal.

At one time, Kyrgyzstan had stood out among its authoritarian neighbors for its strong civil society, independent media, and active political opposition. But an upturn in repression, through criminal prosecutions and detentions, reached a new level in 2022 under the joint rule of Japarov and Tashiev.

header4 At-A-Glance

In Kyrgyzstan, national governance currently manifests in centralized presidential rule with weak separation of powers, an outsized role for the national security chief, and only a small but outspoken political opposition. Elections are generally free and competitive but marred by vote buying and use of administrative resources to undermine a level playing field. The civic sector tries to play an active role in public life by keeping a check on those in power and stepping up in times of crisis, and the media landscape is vibrant with the presence of strong independent outlets that expose corruption and institutional failures. However, both the civic and media sectors depend on donor funding and come under attacks from authorities and nationalist groups who exploit “foreign agent” rhetoric. The court system suffers from political influence, corruption, and low public trust. Corruption and nepotism in political office are widespread, while the fight against corruption is largely a pretext for authorities to go after political rivals or new revenue sources.

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
  • After the constitutional reform of 2021, Kyrgyzstan switched from a parliamentary to a presidential form of government. President Sadyr Japarov controls the executive branch, has the right of legislative initiative, and oversees key appointments in the judiciary. His close ally Kamchybek Tashiev, chief of the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) and deputy head of the Cabinet of Ministers, also enjoys wide-ranging powers. Not only is he in charge of national security, border security, and the fight against terrorism and high-level corruption, he has also been seen leading government meetings on economic matters (such as food security, medical supplies, and budget revenues) and been involved in international negotiations. Tashiev also plays a key role in repression against dissent and the political opposition.
  • The powers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Jogorku Kenesh (Supreme Council)—Kyrgyzstan’s 90-member, unicameral parliament—were reduced under the expanded presidential mandate. The legislature is dominated by loyalists to Japarov and Tashiev through the parties Ata-Jurt Kyrgyzstan, Yntymak, and Ishenim, which hold a majority of parliamentary mandates. The minority opposition has been outspoken on matters of national and public importance and faced pressure for doing so. The head of the Cabinet of Ministers is also the head of the presidential administration.
  • In 2022, President Japarov dismissed five ministers: Healthcare Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev,1 Energy Minister Doskul Bekmurzaev, and Education Minister Almazbek Beishenaliev2 (all three had been investigated for corruption); and the other two, Minister of Transport Erkinbek Osoev and Culture Minister Azamat Jamankulov, reportedly voluntarily resigned.3
  • In June, the Supreme Council passed a contentious bill on casino legalization by a 59–9 vote following heated arguments among MPs and attempts to block the vote.4 In an overturn of the 2012 ban on gambling, the bill allowed for casinos, sports betting companies, and slot machines to operate in Kyrgyzstan but only for foreign nationals over 21 years of age. The presidential administration and Cabinet of Ministers, who backed the bill, said the gambling industry would bring additional state budget revenue through the purchase of licenses. But critics argued that it would be difficult to oversee who accesses gambling services.
  • In October, the government’s lack of transparency in a proposed border demarcation deal with Uzbekistan sparked protests in the capital Bishkek and southern region of Uzgen. While details of the agreement were kept secret from the public, authorities announced that Kyrgyzstan would transfer land on which the Kempir-Abad water reservoir sits to the neighboring country. A session of the parliamentary committee for international relations was held behind closed doors in October as GKNB chief Tashiev rushed to ratify the deal.5 Although eventually approved by a 6–4 vote, committee head Chingiz Aidarbekov refused to sign the deal, claiming that MPs had not seen the full package of documents. Just days later, he was removed from committee leadership6 by fellow members and stripped of his senior diplomatic rank7 by President Japarov. The parliamentary vote took place amid mass detentions of more than 20 opponents of the Kempir-Abad transfer, among them opposition politicians, human rights defenders, and civic activists, who were accused of plotting mass unrest (see “Civil Society”). The deal was ratified in a November 17 parliamentary session and signed by the presidents of the two countries by the end of the month.8 However, lawmakers who voted against the agreement claimed they had faced pressure.9 One MP was evicted from his office; another claimed that relatives of the dissenting lawmakers were fired from their government jobs.
  • Conflict broke out between President Japarov and lawmakers over the draft bill on the Kurultai, or people’s assembly, that would establish the status and authority of this unelected advisory body. In May, lawmakers rejected the bill since some saw it as an attempt to reduce the powers of the Supreme Council. Japarov’s bill proposed granting the Kurultai such powers as the right to initiate laws; to hear annual reports from the president, parliament, and government; and to recommend to the president which ministers and other officials should be fired.10 Although the bill was rejected, Japarov nevertheless convened the first Kurultai with a temporary decree.11 Held in the last week of November, the people’s assembly gathered 1,072 delegates from across the country, but it lacked age, gender, and ethnic diversity: over two-thirds of the attendees were men over 50; only 23 people were under 30, and there were only 148 women.12 Questions were raised about the Kurultai’s legitimacy, delegate selection process, and costs and sources of funding for the event.13 While some attendees voiced criticism of the government’s anticorruption efforts and mass arrests of opponents of the Kempir-Abad transfer (see “Civil Society”), the two-day conference served largely as a platform for authorities to boast about their achievements and hear complaints about the deplorable state of rural schools and hospitals.
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
  • After a sweeping constitutional reform in 2021, Kyrgyzstan hastily adopted a new electoral code; during that year, the country held two referendums and three elections—presidential, parliamentary, and local. In 2022, the Central Election Commission (CEC) formed a working group that would analyze the current electoral legislation and give recommendations on how it might be improved for the next electoral cycle starting in 2025. The group had not presented its proposals by year’s end.
  • On February 27, residents of two single-constituency districts in the capital Bishkek headed to the polls to elect their members of the Supreme Council. This rerun was held after the majority in those two districts had voted in protest (choosing the “against all” ballot option) during the parliamentary elections on November 28, 2021. In both districts, the reruns were characterized by high competition and low voter turnout (27 percent). According to the CEC, former MP Elvira Surabaldieva won 48 percent of the vote in the First May District.1 In Sverdlov District, the CEC revoked the registration of the leading candidate, athlete Abdurakhmanhaji Murtazaliev, based on a police investigation into vote-buying,2 with all of his votes rendered invalid. Murtazaliev appealed, but the Supreme Court upheld the CEC decision. Consequently, runner-up Shailoobek Atazov won the mandate.
  • Independent monitors from the nongovernmental organization Common Cause said in their preliminary report that the February 27 rerun elections were generally held in compliance with the law although some violations were noted. The NGO’s report highlighted the increased role of social media and SMS text services during the campaign, and noted that evidence of vote buying had become harder to collect due to new methods of compensation such as mobile wallets or payments after the fact of voting.3
  • 1Определены результаты выборов депутата Жогорку Кенеша Кыргызской Республики по Первомайскому избирательному округу № 27, Central Election Commission, 7 March 2022,
  • 2Определены результаты выборов депутата Жогорку Кенеша Кыргызской Республики по Свердловскому избирательному округу №29, Central Election Commission, 26 March 2022,
  • 3“Предварительное заявление ОФ "Общее дело" по итогам независимого наблюдения за повторными выборами депутатов Жогорку Кенеша КР, прошедших 27 февраля 2022 года” [Preliminary statement of PF Common Cause on the results of independent monitoring over the rerun elections of members of the Kyrgyz parliament on February 27, 2022], Common Cause Public Foundaiton, 28 February 2022,
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. 2.753 7.007
  • Civil society is vibrant in Kyrgyzstan, and its work is essential in a wide range of social issues and keeping the government in check. However, the sector’s reliance on foreign donor funding has made NGOs—particularly those working in human rights—targets of vicious attacks and false accusations of spreading “LGBT+ propaganda” or “serving foreign interests.”
  • In 2022, civil society and volunteers again mobilized during a time of crisis, making up for the government’s slow response. In September, during another violent border clash with Tajikistan, volunteer organizations quickly collected and delivered aid for evacuees and launched fundraisers to equip Kyrgyzstan’s border guards.1
  • Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, authorities prohibited public gatherings outside of the Russian Embassy as well as the Ala-Too central square, the Supreme Council, and the presidential administration building. The ban was upheld by district courts and eventually extended until December.2 Throughout the year, people who picketed peacefully outside of the Russian Embassy in solidarity with Ukraine were arrested or slapped with fines for disobeying police orders.3 Commenting on the ban in his April interview with a state news agency, President Japarov said the restrictions were aimed at stopping rallies in front of embassies because Kyrgyzstan “needed to maintain respectful relations with all countries.”4 However, Human Rights Watch and the Ombudswoman of Kyrgyzstan said the ban was against the country’s constitution and international human rights law.5
  • In May, over 40 NGOs signed a letter against a draft bill on government grants to NGOs.6 If passed, it would divide NGOs into those loyal or disloyal to the government, and eventually lead to the narrowing of democratic space for NGO work in Kyrgyzstan, according to analysis by the legal clinic Adilet.7 The bill proposes allocating small grants to NGOs selected by an “independent commission” comprised, primarily, of representatives of the presidential administration and ministries. According to the draft bill, the objective is to “defend the interests of the state authority and the Kyrgyz state” and counterbalance foreign funding of “critical research on the issues of trust in government.” 8
  • Rare positive news came in August when the Karakol city court acquitted human rights defender Kamil Ruziev of forging a medical certificate.9 However, in October, a higher court reversed the verdict and fined him 80,000 soms ($960).10 Ruziev had been held under house arrest since May 2020.
  • In October, more than 20 people in Bishkek, including prominent human rights defenders, activists, and opposition politicians, had their homes raided and were detained for two months for publicly opposing the transfer of the Kempir-Abad water reservoir to Uzbekistan as part of a secretive border demarcation agreement pushed by President Japarov and GKNB chief Tashiev (see “National Democratic Governance”).11 Two more opposition figures critical of the deal were arrested in Moscow and brought to Kyrgyzstan.12 All of the detained were charged with plotting mass unrest (Articles 36 and 278 of the criminal code). Commenting on the mass arrests, Japarov stated that the individuals did not care about Kempir-Abad but merely wanted power and government jobs.13 In December, a court prolonged their detention through February 2023.
  • In November, a draft bill with proposed amendments to the law on nonprofit NGOs and the criminal code was submitted to the Supreme Council and was widely criticized by domestic and international human rights organizations.14 Likened to Russia’s “foreign agent law,” the bill would introduce the concept of “foreign representative” NGOs that not only receive foreign funding but also “participate in the political life of Kyrgyzstan in the interest of foreign sources.” It would also introduce additional registration and financial accounting requirements and allow authorities to suspend the work of NGOs that failed to meet them.
  • The official practice of summoning individuals for questioning over their social media posts or bringing charges of “inciting hatred” (Article 330 of the criminal code), “calls for civil unrest” (Article 278), and “calls for violent seizure of power” (Article 327) remained widespread during the year. These tactics were used against activists as well as ordinary social media users for critiquing Japarov or nationalist sentiment. At least four individuals faced criminal charges over Facebook posts, including one person who had been deported to Kyrgyzstan from Russia.15 In November, the court handed activist and Next TV reporter Adilet Baltabay a five-year prison sentence but placed him under probationary supervision for three years.16 The trial proceeded for 19-year-old Yryskeldi Jekshenaliev, arrested on August 14 after reposting an old video17 of one of President Japarov’s political rivals criticizing the government’s plan to develop iron-ore mining in the Jetim-Too region. On the same day, the president wrote a Facebook post18 calling for law enforcement agencies to deal with “pseudo patriots who spread false information.”19
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. 1.752 7.007
  • In May, a new law on the Public Broadcasting Corporation of the Kyrgyz Republic (KTRK) removed the few mechanisms of public oversight that had existed in the state-funded broadcaster, which traditionally has served the interests of the sitting government.1 In particular, it abolished the supervisory board, KTRK’s governing body, which had included members of civil society and elected the general director.2 Now, the public broadcaster’s general director is appointed by the president.
  • In July, as the nation reeled from reporting on the rape of a 13-year-old girl by two police officers, two senior government officials accused media covering the case of harming the tourism industry with bad news3 and “immersing the nation into a state of stress and information terror.”4
  • In September, President Japarov’s administration presented a draft law on mass media for public discussion, saying that the current law (passed in 1992) was out of date. In its analysis, Media Policy Institute, a longstanding NGO defending free expression and media freedom in Kyrgyzstan, concluded that one of the goals of the new law was the liquidation of media outlets considered undesirable by authorities. The draft law suggested reregistering all media outlets in the country before June 1, 2023. Outlets that do not renew their registration will be considered closed. At the same time, experts claim that the grounds for denying registration are ambiguous and broad, allowing room for interpretation and misuse.5
  • In September, Taalai Duishenbiev, director of the opposition channel Next TV, was found guilty of inciting hatred and given a five-year prison sentence (later replaced with three years’ probation and a ban on leaving the country).6 The charges concerned a post on Telegram by Next TV that cited a claim by Kazakhstan’s former security chief that Kyrgyzstan had agreed to provide military aid to Russia in the war against Ukraine.7 Next TV was taken off the air in March immediately after Duishenbiev’s arrest. In the following months, the Supreme Court ruled that Next TV’s Telegram post was extremist.8
  • Independent media outlets, such as Kloop, Azattyk, and Kaktus.Media, continued to be targeted by the authorities and a mixed choir of pro-Japarov, pro-Russian, and conservative voices. In February and October, small-scale protests took place demanding the closure of these websites, labeling them as “Western propagandists” and “instigators,” and calling for the adoption of a “foreign agent law.”9 In October, a letter appeared in the media signed by some 70 people asking President Japarov to shut down Azattyk, Kloop, and
  • In October, the Ministry of Culture blocked Azattyk’s website on grounds established by the controversial law on protecting the public from false information, adopted in 2021. Officials had demanded that Azattyk take down a news story on the border conflict with Tajikistan, which they deemed “against the national interests of Kyrgyzstan.”11 The decision came amid mass arrests of activists and opposition politicians decrying the transfer of a water reservoir to Uzbekistan under the new border demarcation agreement (see “Civil Society”). Shortly thereafter, state financial police ordered a block on Azattyk bank accounts under the article of the criminal code on countering terrorism and money laundering.12 The state-owned television and radio channels also suspended the broadcasting of Azattyk programs, and seven Azattyk reporters were stripped of their parliamentary accreditation.13
  • In November, the Bishkek court ruled to expel prominent investigative journalist Bolot Temirov from the country after he was found guilty of using forged documents to obtain a Kyrgyz passport, which had been revoked earlier in the year.14 The Kyrgyz-born journalist was immediately escorted out of the courtroom and deported to Russia, where he also held citizenship. His deportation culminated a long-running prosecution that was widely viewed as retribution for his journalistic work.15 Temirov was arrested in January, just days after he published an investigation into a corruption scheme implicating Kamchybek Tashiev’s relatives. He was charged with forgery, drug possession, and illegal crossing of the border. In the September trial, he was acquitted of the last two charges, and the judge called the probe against the journalist biased.16 In an April interview, President Japarov said there was no pressure on the media in Kyrgyzstan, only journalists who “try to evade responsibility for their crimes.” The president further commented that such journalists conduct pseudo-investigations, spread false information, discredit individuals, and mislead the public.17
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
  • The 2021 reform of the local self-governance system strengthened presidential control over local decision-making. President Japarov now appoints and dismisses his envoys to the regions and also akims, or heads of local administrations, as well as mayors of the two largest cities, Bishkek and Osh, and regional capitals.
  • Both Bishkek and Osh had their mayors replaced during the year. In February, Bishkek Mayor Aibek Junushaliev resigned due to his promotion to a senior role in the presidential administration. In his place, the president appointed Emilbek Abdykadyrov, who ran for the Supreme Council in 2020 with Tashiev’s Mekenchil party.1 In November, the president sacked Almaz Mambetov as mayor of Osh, the country’s second-largest city, after the Prosecutor’s Office opened four cases into Mambetov’s alleged corruption during his earlier term as mayor of Balykchy in 2014–19.2 Former lawmaker Bakyt Jetigenov was appointed the new mayor of Osh.3
  • On at least two occasions in 2022, President Japarov publicly criticized local governments for underperformance. Speaking at a government meeting in June, he pointed to the “poor work of heads of rural administrative units (aiyl okmotu), akims, and the presidential envoys to the regions” and ordered them to toughen controls to execute decisions of the central government.4 In July, he said the heads of local governments were not performing their duties well and had to work in closer contact with the people.5
  • In April, the Supreme Council and the president passed a law on land amnesty. A one-time amnesty would grant citizens ownership rights over their houses built or under construction on land plots without permits.6 Applications would be reviewed by local and municipal authorities. Overall, the authorities plan to legalize 117,000 homes. By the end of the year, the Land Resources Service had received nearly 72,000 applications and issued more than 12,000 property documents (“technical passports”).7
  • In September, politician Altynbek Sulaimanov resigned as presidential envoy in Issyk-Kul Oblast, just six months after his appointment. Before his resignation, he had called for decentralization of power and granting more authority to local governments, including over staffing and financial policy.8 President Japarov, however, responded by saying that Sulaimanov had failed at his job and was using this criticism as an excuse.
  • In October, local residents of Uzgen region and opposition politicians held a people’s kurultai denouncing the controversial border demarcation agreement with Uzbekistan that envisioned the transfer of the Kempir-Abad water reservoir to the neighboring country. Locals feared that parts of Kyrgyz villages adjacent to the reservoir would become Uzbek territories.9 During President Japarov’s visit to Uzgen on October 4, local residents complained that they were not able to enter the meeting because of limited space inside the local administration building.10 A publicly posted video showed Japarov leaving hastily and walking past a crowd of people, some of whom shouted objections to the planned transfer.
  • In October, President Japarov signed a decree “On further measures for the improvement of the administrative-territorial structure and the development of regions,” marking the start of his administrative-territorial reform. Few details were available by year’s end, but speaking at the people’s Kurultai in November, Japarov said that the Tyup District in Ysyk-Köl Oblast had been selected as a pilot region where 13 existing aiyl aimagy (a rural territorial division comprised of one or more villages) would be reorganized into five larger ones.11
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
  • The judicial and law enforcement systems in Kyrgyzstan have traditionally been plagued by political influence and corruption. After the 2021 constitutional reform, President Japarov gained even more control over the judiciary at all levels. He now has the right to appoint candidates for the chairs of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, with approval from the Supreme Council. In February, the president appointed Zamirbek Bazarbekov, his former attorney, as head of the Supreme Court. Former deputy head of the Constitutional Chamber, Emil Oskonbaev, became chairman of the Constitutional Court.1 The president also appoints judges of local courts nominated for him by the Judicial Affairs Council.
  • In April, the president ordered the rotation of judges of local courts across the country as part of his judicial reform. He claimed that moving judges of district, city, and regional courts to new locations would help fight corruption and conflicts of interest.2 The president also purported that the government was building apartment blocks for judges and their families, and promised to raise their salaries.3
  • In June, the Supreme Council approved 11 of 12 members of the Judicial Affairs Council, an independent body responsible for the recruitment and selection of judges (and the successor to the Council for the Selection of Judges that had existed since 2011).4
  • That same month, the president ordered an inquiry into two deaths at the GKNB detention center after public outcry and allegations of foul play. Political scientist Marat Kazakpaev, who had been investigated for state treason, reportedly died from a brain hemorrhage after being rushed to the hospital. Ten days later, the former deputy chairman of the state-owned Aiyl Bank, Bakyt Asanbaev, was found hanged in his cell. Relatives of the deceased men and some opposition politicians blamed the deaths on GKNB chief Tashiev, who threatened them with criminal prosecution for spreading lies. In August, a special commission led by the deputy head of the Cabinet of Ministers, Edil Baisalov, concluded that the deaths were the result of “a tragic conjuncture of circumstances.”5 The government announced plans to overhaul detention facilities and the entire penitentiary system to avoid further such incidents.
  • Also in June, President Japarov temporarily suspended Prosecutor General Kurmanbek Zulushev after his office opened seven criminal cases against Healthcare Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev for alleged corruption. The reason given for the suspension was “personal relations” between the two men, raising questions about presidential interference in the investigation. According to the constitution, the President may not dismiss the Prosecutor General without consent from the Supreme Council. However, Japarov’s spokesman claimed that such approval was not necessary because Zulushev was suspended temporarily. He was reinstated two weeks later.
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
  • At the helm of President Japarov’s anticorruption efforts has been the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), which in 2021 became the main authority to investigate high-level corruption. Since then, its work in this area has stood out with a series of high-profile cases and arrests of former senior government officials and lawmakers,1 as well as the obscure practice of “kusturizatsiya” (from the Kyrgyz verb kusturuu, meaning “to induce vomiting”). So dubbed by the public, the term refers to numerous incidents where influential individuals suspected of corruption were released from pretrial detention at the GKNB without a court order after compensating “damages” to the state.2
  • Two major corruption cases over the Kumtor gold mine, which dominated the media and government agenda in 2021, faded quietly during the year. One case was key to President Japarov’s effort to nationalize the mine from its Canadian developer, Centerra Gold. In July, the presidential administration announced that ownership of the mine had been transferred to Kyrgyzstan.3 Both parties reportedly dropped legal claims against each other.4 In another case—which saw four former prime ministers, five lawmakers, and several other former senior government officials arrested—the courts found six people guilty of corruption and issued fines ranging from KGS 260,000 to 300,000 ($2,900–3,400).5 Two former prime ministers, Temir Sariev and Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, said that cases against them had been closed.6
  • The year saw more state officials arrested for alleged corruption, including three sitting ministers (of education, healthcare, and energy).7 Following a major audit in the Ministry of Energy, the Prosecutor’s Office launched 46 criminal cases into corruption, embezzlement, or illegal enrichment.8 A number of employees of regional electricity companies were arrested.9 In September, the former head of the customs service, Adilet Kubanychbekov, was found guilty of abuse of office and fined KGS 1 million ($11,400).10
  • Three criminal probes were launched into the Kumtor Gold Company, the operator of Kumtor mine, following a financial audit that revealed the company had caused damages to the state amounting to KGS 1 billion. Several top managers were arrested, including Tengiz Bolturuk, who was appointed by the government in 2021 as an external manager of the company.11
  • In 2022, the Japarov administration proposed several laws that independent media and lawyers criticized for their potential to restrict public access to important information, reduce budget transparency, and create corruption risks.12
  • In April, President Japarov signed amendments to the law on public procurement whereby state and municipal companies and joint venture companies with a 50 percent or greater stake owned by the state are no longer required to hold open tenders or publish information about purchases.13 In October, the presidential administration proposed further changes to public procurement procedures effectively eliminating open tenders, leaving only a government quote and single-source procurements.14
  • In June, a parliamentary committee rejected a draft bill from the Justice Ministry that proposed granting state officials immunity from criminal prosecution.15 Lawmakers said the bill would legalize white-collar crime.16
  • A draft bill put forward by the presidential administration and the Cabinet of Ministers on the capital amnesty bill drew criticism from civil society representatives, who viewed it as legitimizing corruption and illegal enrichment.17 Proposed as a measure to fight the shadow economy, the amnesty would allow citizens to legalize previously undeclared income and assets worth up to KGS 100 million, including those obtained by criminal means. A person could file a special tax declaration without explaining the origin of assets and gain immunity from any potential prosecution for illicit enrichment in the future; their declarations would be secret even to courts.18 Alongside this bill, the government proposed amending the law on voluntary declaration of assets, which would ban disclosing and publishing asset and income declarations of civil servants and politicians, including those of their close relatives.19

Author: Bermet Talant is a Kyrgyz journalist covering Central Asia and Ukraine.

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