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Commission Releases Letter to President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan on Questionable Electoral Practices

WASHINGTON – Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today released the text of a letter to President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan addressing concerns over restrictions on political party activities in the upcoming elections and the prosecution of the president of the Kyrgyz Committee on Human Rights. The letter was signed by Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD).

Full text follows:

February 11, 2000
His Excellency Askar Akaev
President
Republic of Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our deep concern about what has been happening in Kyrgyzstan in connection with the upcoming February 20 parliamentary election. The Central Election Commission has excluded from participation a number of political parties on grounds that, if technically in accordance with the law, nevertheless raise strong suspicion of being politically motivated.

In April 1999, the Kyrgyz parliament passed a law which required parties wishing to participate in the election to be registered for one year—even though it was clear the likely date for the election would be February 2000, considering that the 1995 parliamentary election was held in February. Indeed, the February 2000 date of the election was set in November. Yet the Ministry of Justice still insisted all parties meet the year-long registration period, even though that would have been impossible for parties not registered before February 1999. The conclusion is inescapable that the requirements for registration and participation have been carefully timed so as to exclude inconvenient political parties and candidates.

These developments have not gone unnoticed. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs issued a report last Friday documenting in detail its concerns. Vice-President Gore has also written to you to voice his dismay and to urge that Kyrgyzstan’s elections meet OSCE standards. Unfortunately, that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, considering that the ODIHR’s election observation mission released a statement on February 8 emphasizing its extreme concern at the exclusion of parties and candidates and the initiation of legal proceedings against some individuals who wanted to run. To quote from that statement, “These decisions restrict the right of political parties to stand in the election on an equal basis and put into question their right to freely choose their candidates. As a consequence, the choice available to the electorate will be narrowed.”

As you undoubtedly know, it is unusual for ODIHR to issue such a statement before an election. The decision to do so clearly reflects the mission’s level of concern and indicates that ODIHR has already concluded the election can no longer be considered fair.

Another source of concern is the news that criminal proceedings have been launched against Ramazan Dyryldaev, the Chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee on Human Rights. Charges are also being brought against several other members of the Committee, which the authorities have targeted for years and have actually de-registered in the past. The Committee has defended independent media, such as Res Publica, and publicized arbitrary treatment of candidates by officials, as well as pressure by the authorities on the judicial system.

For over a decade, Kyrgyzstan has been the most open and liberal of the Central Asian states, despite problems with the 1995 parliamentary and presidential elections and ongoing pressure on the independent media.

However, it appears that Kyrgyzstan is increasingly adopting regional patterns of rigged elections. Your country’s most valuable asset is its reputation. We tell you in all seriousness that reputation has changed for the worse, and that the U.S. Congress—which has consistently supported assistance to Kyrgyzstan—is very disturbed by these trends. We urge you to reconsider the direction Kyrgyzstan is taking and to take seriously Kyrgyzstan’s OSCE commitments with respect to free and fair elections and democratization.

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