After a year of political turbulence and ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, the country has held its first orderly elections, defying centuries of Central Asian despotism. Philip Shishkin, Asia Society's Bernard Schwartz Fellow, said, "That you can hold an election and not know ahead of time who will win by a crushing margin is a real achievement." Over 1 million people voted in the election.
Shishkin said the surprising results of Sunday's parliamentary ballot give cause for concern about the future of the fractured nation, which in the past five years has endured two revolutions and a bloody inter-ethnic conflict.
"For Washington, this matters because the leader of the nationalist party that won the largest share of seats in the new parliament wants to expel the American military base, a key logistical hub for the Afghanistan war. In pre-election comments, the same nationalist leader made it clear that he doesn't support greater rights for Kyrgyzstan's ethnic minorities, a dangerous stance to take in the immediate aftermath of a summer massacre in which hundreds died, most of them ethnic Uzbeks. But in a truly Western European-style outcome, no single party garnered enough seats to rule on its own, so it will take some time for a new government to take shape."