Both during the Akaev’s and Bakiev’s presidencies, it was claimed by the incumbent that political pluralism as provided in Kyrgyzstan based on the existence of more than one hundred political parties in the republic and many of their participation in the parliamentary elections. This claim is still made by the provisional government many of whose members are themselves leaders of different parties. However, the existence of such a huge number of political parties in the republic is not a guarantee for political pluralism in the sense accepted by democratic countries with strong institutions.
In established democracies with strong institutions, political pluralism is broadly understood as the principle of social and political development based on the existence of several or many independent political parties. This definition presumes the existence of political parties with strong and clear ideological platforms and programs, their members’ decisions and actions compatible to party platform and program, and presentation of the people’ (electorate) interest and their participation in the government of state through those parties.
This assumption rarely holds for political parties in Kyrgyzstan. Parties in the republic are less
institutionalized. Many of them lack strong ideological platforms and programs. Goals and objectives of many political parties, including both ruling and oppositional parties, are more or less similar since there is no clear boundary which show their ideological face. Also, many members of parties are limited with knowledge of their parties’ ideology and programs and their difference from ideologies and programs of other parties and how they will promote their interests.
Moreover, sometimes party leaders and a great majority of their members are not holders of values and ideas of their own party. People witnessed when oppositional rightists and social democratic parties were against policy of free market and privatization because of their personal interests. For instance, last year, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan severely criticized the decision of the former parliament on privatization of power stations of the country and used this as a tool to run anti-campaign against the ruling party ‘Ak Jol’, whose leader was former president Bakiev. This gives us to conclude that identification of political parties in the republic on ideological basis such as communist, social, social democratic or liberal is conditionally.
In addition, unlike in Europe or North America where political parties are always active, political parties in Kyrgyzstan are active only in the eve of elections. For example, after it became known that there would be parliamentary elections in October 2010 based on the proportional system many inactive parties started to raise their activities among the population. Furthermore, many new political parties have appeared like mushrooms after rain. Similar picture occurred before the parliamentary elections in 2007. Pro-presidential party ‘Ak Jol’ was created just before the parliamentary elections on the spur of the moment.
Political parties in the republic are highly personified. As practice shows, people vote for a person or a group of people running for elections from a party rather than for its ideology or program. Accordingly, the political parties make their focus on lists of its members, constituted out of people enjoying popularity and influence among the population, rather than its program. This is why political parties preparing for the coming elections are currently attempting to recruit people with popular names into their list, not taking into consideration their political views and preferences, with a goal to receive more votes during the elections.
The above mentioned attitude between the electorate and party leaders leads to the lack of participation of the first in the government process. Political parties do not present interests of their electorate because they exist separate from each other. Party members unite around one person (leader) and aim at satisfying their own interests along with serving the leader to meet his interests. For example, former president Bakiev used the ruling party ‘Ak Jol’ as a tool to strengthen his power rather than resolving social and economic problems and legitimize his decisions on certain issues.
In a personified party system in Kyrgyzstan, the life of a political party is usually dependent upon the success or failure of its leader’s political career. In other words, the more politically successful the leader is, the more successfully the party is, and vice versa. For instance, party ‘Ak Jol’ received a great majority of seats in the parliament during the Bakiev’s presidency. Once Bakiev was ousted, this party was collapsed since virtually all of its members left the party list. Another example, before the April events, ‘Ak Shumkar’ party, whose leader is member of the provisional government Temir Sariev, was not as much popular among the population as it is now.
To sum up, the fact of such a huge number of political parties in Kyrgyzstan does not mean the existence of political pluralism, in its fully sense, in the republic because the nature of political parties in the republic does not meet some basic requirements for political pluralism accepted by democratic countries with strong institutions.