Sophia Moestrup and I have edited a new volume called Semi-Presidentialism in the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is published by Palgrave Macmillan.
The book contains two chapters by Sophia and I. In the Introductory chapter we describe constitutional variation across the region and outline the basic research questions of the book: do institutions matter in post-Soviet countries? If so, do they matter for democratic performance? Whatever the answer, has the organization of the executive and executive-legislative relations had an impact on political life? In the Concluding chapter, ‘Weaker Presidents, Better Semi-Presidentialism’, we present a single policy recommendation: countries should adopt a constitution with a relatively weak presidency. All else equal, weak presidential institutions are likely to be more beneficial than super-presidencies. We argue that these benefits derive both from the intrinsic institutional incentives associated with such a system as well as the creation of environment in which the choice of a weak presidency is seen as being an attractive constitutional choice.
The book also contains a scene-setting chapter by Alex Baturo. This chapter provides an overview of similarities and differences between the political regimes that emerged in post-Soviet Eurasia, showing how “patronal” first secretaries under the Soviet Union became “patronal” presidents of their own nation-states after independence.
There are also four country case study chapters on semi-presidentiaism in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, as a well as a fifth case study of presidential Kazakhstan. These chapters look at the reasons for institutional choice in these countries, including Kazakhstan’s brief flirtation with semi-presidentialism in the early 1990s, as well as an assessment of the constitutional powers of the presidents in all of these countries, and an analysis of the reality of vertical power and political pluralism (or its absence) in practice.
More details can be found at the Palgrave website. Indeed, there are more details still, including chapter abstracts, from the Springer website.
In Kyrgyzstan, a new governing coalition has been agreed.
RFE/RL is reporting that a three-party coalition bringing together the Social Democratic, Ar-Namys (Dignity), and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties has been agreed. If so, they would have the support of 69 deputies in the 120-seat parliament. The Kyrgyzstan news agency is also reporting that some deputies from the opposition parties may also support the new government.
The previous government fell because the Ar-Namys (Dignity), and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties withdrew from the government. They are now back, but the Respublika party, which had been in the previous government, has now joined the opposition. The previous prime minister was a representative of the Respublika party. Presumably, the Ar-Namys (Dignity), and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) were willing to renew the coalition only if Respublika was excluded.
The new prime minister is due to be Zhantoro Satybaldiev, who represents the Social Democratic party. President Almazbek Atambaev also represents the Social Democrats.
In December 2010 a four-party coalition was formed, comprising the Respublika party, Social Democratic Party, Ar-Namys (Dignity) and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties. The first PM was Almazbek Atambayev from the Social Democratic Party. When Atambayev became president in December 2011, he was replaced by Omurbek Babanov from the Respublika party.
PM Babanov has been under pressure for some time. RFE/RL reports that he was accused of accepting a horse in return for offering a government contract to a particular company. All summer, there have been reports from the Kyrgyzstan press agency about a no-confidence motion. Deputies from parties in the coalition have been quoted as supporting such a motion.
Last week, the Ar-Namys (Dignity) and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties formally withdrew from the coalition. On Friday, RFE/RL reports, President Atambayev has formally dismissed the government. This means someone had to be given the task of forming a new government has to begin within three days. That person has 15 days to try to do so. Today, RFE/RL reports that President Atambayev has asked a representative of the Social Democratic Party to try to form a government.
The problem is that apart from the four parties in the outgoing coalition there is only one other party in the parliament, the Ata-Zhurt (Fatherland) party. A majority requires the agreement of at least three of the five parties in the parliament. This is likely to prove difficult. In all likelihood there will be early elections.
As ever, information about Kyrgyzstan is difficult to come by in a language that I can follow. However, two issues have arisen.
Firstly, there are reports from 24.kg that the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Constitutional Law and State Structure has approved a bill that makes the president responsible for foreign policy.
Currently, the president’s general powers in the area of foreign policy are outlined in Art. 64 (6). This states:
6. The President:
1) shall represent the Kyrgyz Republic inside and outside the country;
2) shall conduct negotiations and sign upon consent of the Prime Minister international treaties; shall have the right to assign these powers to the Prime-minister, members of the Government as well as other officials;
3) shall sign instruments of ratification and instruments of accession;
4) shall appoint, upon consent of the Prime minister, diplomatic representatives of the Kyrgyz Republic in foreign States and permanent representatives in international organizations and shall recall them; shall accept the credentials and letters of recall of the heads of diplomatic missions of foreign States.
I have not seen the text of the bill and, presumably, the bill must be passed by the chamber. Moreover, as noted by opponents in another report, surely an ordinary bill would not be enough to change the president’s powers. A constitutional amendment would be needed. I will try to keep up with what happens to this bill.
Secondly, it looks as if parliament may be about to lodge a motion of no-confidence against the government. There is a report from Kabar stating that the motion may be held on 29 June.
Art. 85 (3) states:
3. The Jogorku Kenesh may consider the issue of no confidence in the Government at the initiative of one-third of the total number of deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh.
As I understand it, there are 120 deputies. So, a motion would require the signatures of 40 deputies to be lodged.
Bizarrely, there are reports that deputies from the ruling coalition have been signing the motion. The report states that 52 deputies have signed. For the government to be defeated, an absolute majority, or 61, is required. If the number of signatures is correct, then the government may be in trouble.
The Kyrgyzstan News Agency is reporting that President Almazbek Atambayev has vetoed a bill.
There are very few details, but the bill seems to have created a 7 per cent threshold for party representation on local councils. The logic seems to be that at the local level parties are not well organised and that representation is usually local and/or personal. So, the bill would seem to be designed to help increase party institutionalisation, but it has now been vetoed.
The constitution states that a presidential veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in the legislature.
President Atambayev is from the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK). The government is a four-party coalition comprising the SDPK, Respublika, Ar-Namys and Ata-Meken. The Ata-Zhurt party is the only opposition faction.
In Kyrgyzstan the News Agency is reporting that a new prime minister has been elected by the four coalition parties. This follows the election as president of Almazbek Atambayev who was formerly the PM.
The process for electing the PM is somewhat unusual and the English translation of the procedure only makes it seem more so.
This is how the so-called “soft rating” process is reported: “the statute of “soft rating” for election Prime Minister and Speaker has been developed. It defines the order and conditions of selection of candidates for leading positions in Government and Parliament. The majority coalition selects aspirants and submits them to a vote of alliance participants, which is held at the coalition’s general meeting. Structure is considered eligible if it involves at least two-thirds of the coalition factions’ members. The statute says that the form of ballots and protocols is approved by open vote. A specially created counting commission consisting of coalition deputies resumes the results. “The factions that make up the ruling bloc nominate one candidate for the post of Speaker and Prime Minister from their members. A separate ballot is preparing for each of them,” the document says. Voting is secret. The aspirants to the posts of the Speaker and Premiere who have the majority of votes are submitted for approval by Parliament.”
So, in line with this new process, the New Agency reports: “4 candidates were nominated for the post of the Kyrgyz Prime Minister: Omurbek Babanov, Ravshan Zheenbekov, Nariman Tyuleev, Temir Sariev. The latter took the rejection [presumably, meaning that he stood down before the vote]. Temir Sariev also noted that the decision on his nomination by the SDPK fraction had been a great surprise for him.” Anyway, of the three remaining candidates, Omurbek Babanov has been elected PM. He was nominated by the Respublika party. President Atambayev is from the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK).
The government comprises four parties, the SDPK, Respublika, Ar-Namys and Ata-Meken. The Ata-Zhurt party is the only opposition faction.
Almazbek Atambayev has been officially sworn in as the new president of Kyrgyzstan. The inauguration raises a couple of issues.
Firstly, who will be the new prime minister? Previously, Atambayev was the prime minister. So, a new PM is required. The 2010 constitution has some quite detailed provisions about government formation (Art. 84). The draft is available here. I assume that it is the current version too.
Secondly, what will be the composition of the new government?The 2010 elections produced a split parliament. The government took some time to form. My main source of information on Kyrgyzstan – eng.24.kg – is full of reports about position the various factions in the parliament will take. So, the government-formation process is not clear-cut.
Given the fragility of democracy in Kyrgyzstan, both questions are fundamental to the country’s future.
The presidential election in Kyrgyzstan is set for 31 October. Obviously, it is a very important test for democracy in the country following last year’s revolution.
Originally, 65 people registered for the election. However, the Kyrgyz news agency is reporting that only 22 of those people lodged the KGS100,000 deposit that was required in order to stand.
In addition to a financial requirement, there is also a language requirement. Candidates must be fluent in Kyrgyz. The Central Election Commission is now holding a language test to determine whether or not they can. The first tests were held last week and the Kyrgyz news agency is reporting that two of the first five candidates failed the test. The other candidates will be tested in the next couple of weeks. Those failing the test do not get back their deposit.
Finally, candidates have to submit a certain amount of signatures in order to be able to stand. The Kyrgyz new agency is reporting that, so far, only six candidates have deposited a sufficient number of signatures.
So, from an original field of 65 candidates the chances are that only a small number of them will actually contest next month’s election.
There is an interesting report in RFE/RL stating that 10 deputies from the opposition Ar-Namys parliamentary group have defected to the governing coalition of Respublika (Republic), SDPK, and Ata-Zhurt (IDPP, Fatherland).
According to my calculations, this means that the coalition now has the support of 87 of the 120 deputies in parliament.
The Ar-Namys party is claiming that the defections are illegal because, it says, the Constitution implies that only whole party groups may shift their allegiance. However, it seems that events have spoken and the government’s majority is even more secure.
The absence of posts from Kyrgyzstan in recent months may be taken as a good sign. Remember the iron rule of the Semi-presidential One: if there are frequent posts about a country, then it is in trouble!