On February 20, 2000, Kyrgyzstan held the first round of its second parliamentary election since gaining independence in 1991. For the first time, parties competed for 15 of the lower chambers 60 seats. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), about 65 percent of voters turned out. In party-list voting, the Communist Party came in first, winning 28 percent. The pro-presidential Union of Democratic Forces was second, with 19 percent. Four other parties passed the 5-percent threshold, in the following order: the Democratic Party of Women (13 percent); Party of Afghan Veterans (8 percent); Ata-Meken (6 percent); and My Country (5 percent).
Much of the real drama took place before the first round, when opposition parties headed by potential challengers to President Askar Akaev were excluded. The controversial election law carefully required parties to have been registered for a year before the election in order to field a party list. This provision barred the Ar-Namys [Honor] Party, headed by former Vice President Felix Kulov. Also disqualified was El (Bei Bechara) [Party of Poor People], led by businessman and parliament member Danyar Usenov, because its charter did not state specifically it intended to participate in elections. On February 4, the opposition Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (DDK), which had been already registered to participate, was also excluded for allegedly holding a congress without the necessary quorum.
Even before the election, the observation mission of the OSCEs Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) took the unusual step of issuing a statement on February 8 criticizing the exclusion of these parties. After the first round, the mission, along with an observer delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, judged the election not to have fully corresponded to OSCE standards. Though the voting and vote count had proceeded well in most districts, parties and candidates had not been able to participate on an equal basis and state media favored pro-government candidates and parties while attacking opposition figures, especially Kulov.