On October 10, 2010, the Kyrgyz people went to the polls to elect a new Parliament in what were some of the most competitive and meaningful elections ever held in Kyrgyzstan. While there were some irregularities noted by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Organization Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), overall the elections reflected the will of the Kyrgyz people to build a stable democracy. On election day, the Embassy sent 22 teams of election observers to all parts of the country, and everywhere they went they observed excitement and determination among the people. During the campaign period, the Embassy sponsored a number of projects with civil society to support the elections, including joining with other international donors to fund nine debates among the parties that sparked public interest in the campaign and the candidates.
October 16 was declared a "clean up" day to take down the election posters and material from the parties. As I walked around town on Saturday, I noticed many posters being taken down and many of the billboards that had hosted party advertising now empty. In the coming days, a new government will be formed, and it will be important for the parties to show that not only can they compete fairly, as they did during the campaign period, but that they can cooperate. Since no party achieved a majority, a coalition must be formed. Following such successful elections, Parliament's primary agenda should be the improvement of the daily lives of all of its citizens.
One message that I have repeated over and over is that democracy is not easy and that democracy does not end with elections. Once the new government is formed, it should reflect the will of the people and the interests of the people -- a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Included in this is a respect for human rights and the rights of all minorities. Given the ethnic violence in June, the only path Kyrgyzstan can take if it wants to be successful is to find a way to mend the hurts of the past and work together for the future. This cannot happen if there continues to be ethnic tension and if the rights of all citizens are not respected.
Equally important, there must be a respect for free and independent media. The national television and radio station has been making great strides in converting its status to being public television, so that it can provide unbiased information. While it still has a ways to go, the fact that it is moving in the right direction gives me hope that the people of Kyrgyzstan can get the information they need to make informed decisions about their future. At the same time, there have been no Uzbek language television stations operating in the South since the violence in June.
Our top priority is, and always will be, to support a democratic Kyrgyzstan as an independent nation, capable of charting its own destiny. We congratulate the people of Kyrgyzstan on the recent elections -- an important milestone for Kyrgyzstan and for Central Asia. We look forward to seeing what the coming weeks and months will bring, and how the United States can best partner with the people of Kyrgyzstan to build economic prosperity, a stable future, and a government that protects the rights of all its people.