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ADVISORY: Sunday's Crucial Votes In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Sadyr Japarov, Kyrgyz acting Prime Minister and leading presidential candidate, attends an election rally in Tokmok, December 30, 2020.
Sadyr Japarov, Kyrgyz acting Prime Minister and leading presidential candidate, attends an election rally in Tokmok, December 30, 2020.

On Sunday, January 10, millions of voters in two Central Asian nations will go to polls. In Kazakhstan, they will be electing new members to the country’s parliament; in Kyrgyzstan, they are voting on a new president following the resignation three months ago of Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

With no opposition party on the ballot, these will be the first parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan since the 2019 resignation of longtime authoritarian leader Nursultan Nazarbaev, and subsequent rise of his successor, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev.

In Kyrgyzstan, although several candidates are on the ballot, current leader Sadyr Japarov is expected to formalize his meteoric three-month rise from prisoner to president -- and will likely enjoy greater powers than previous Kyrgyz presidents, as the country also votes on a referendum to move from a parliamentary system of government back to a presidential one.

The votes are taking place in the context of visible signs of growing discontent in both countries. Similar issues are at the root of the discontent -- allegations of the use of administrative resources to help government-supported candidates, increased harassment of political and human rights activists, the lack of promised political reforms, entrenched corruption, and poor economic conditions.

Meanwhile, the election campaigns have been conducted amid concerns over the expanding COVID-19 pandemic -- a contentious issue, as authorities are widely blamed by their suffering constituents for hiding the real impact of the pandemic and the lack of a recovery plan.

With a vast network of reporters on the ground, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Azattyk and the Kazakh Service, Radio Azattyq journalists have been providing audiences in Central Asia with comprehensive multimedia coverage of the campaign in all local languages.

RFE/RL experts in Bishkek, Nur-Sultan and Prague are available for comment before, during, and after the polls;

READ: The 'Beautiful' Life Of A Kyrgyz Customs Official

  • TOROKUL DOOROV, RFE/RL Kazakh Service Director (in Prague | English/Kazakh/Russian) -- phone: +420.221.123.281 -- Twitter: @Torokul

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READ: Kazakh Elections Under New President Looking A Lot Like Previous Votes Under Nazarbaev


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To schedule an interview with any of RFE/RL's experts, contact Muhammad Tahir (; +1.202.740.0603).

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