(Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan holds an election on Sunday that interim leaders hope will help unite the country but opponents fear could rekindle violence and leave the south vulnerable to ethnic extremists and militant Islamists.
The election is intended to establish Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy, where the prime minister will have more power than the president.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev was toppled as president in a revolt on April 7 during which more than 80 people were killed, mainly government opponents. He then fled to Belarus.
Ethnic clashes broke out between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south in June in which at least 400 people were killed.
In a June 27 referendum, voters overwhelmingly supported interim President Roza Otunbayeva’s plans for parliamentary democracy. Below are facts about the election:
— All 120 parliament seats will be filled through popular voting for party lists, not individual candidates. All ballots will include party names as well as the names of the top five candidates from each party’s list of members to whom it plans to allocate seats.
— Seats will be distributed proportionately to parties winning at least 5 percent of the vote nationwide and at least 0.5 percent of the votes in each of Kyrgyzstan’s administrative regions and two key cities. This is intended to prevent a party from winning representation if it lacks broad nationwide support.
— However, election rules stipulate that no single party will be allotted more than 65 seats regardless of its election result.
— Kyrgyzstan has 2.8 million registered voters, slightly more than half of the country’s total population of 5.3 million.
— The election monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has stationed 40 long-term observers around the country. A further 200 of its short-term observers have arrived for the election.
— Parliament will be elected for a term of five years.
— The parliamentary majority will nominate a candidate for prime minister. The nominee will propose to parliament the program, structure and members of the cabinet for approval.
— Unlike in other ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister will be stronger than the president and have the right to appoint and fire cabinet ministers and governors.
— The parliamentary opposition has the right to head parliamentary committees on the budget and law and order.
— Otunbayeva will be acting president until December 31, 2011. Future presidents will be limited to a single six-year term with greatly reduced powers, but will have the right to appoint the defense minister and national security service head.
Of the 29 parties that have registered for the elections, analysts widely expect no more than six to win a significant number of seats. They are:
* Ata Meken (Fatherland)
Leader: Omurbek Tekebayev, a leading figure in the interim government and author of the constitutional reforms that made the election possible.
Ata Meken calls itself a socialist “party of creators.”
* Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan
Leader: Almazbek Atambayev, a leading opposition politician and entrepreneur who served as prime minister in 2007 under Bakiyev, and was deputy leader of the interim government for a time. A frequent visitor to Moscow, he met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in early September.
His party has promised to devote its energy to reforming the economy.
* Ak Shumkar (White Falcon)
Leader: Temir Sariyev, a former opposition leader and entrepreneur who worked in the Finance Ministry of the interim government.
His party also plans to concentrate on economic revival.
* Ar-Namys (Dignity)
Leader: Felix Kulov, a former interior minister and one-time Bakiyev ally who served as prime minister after Bakiyev came to power in 2005.
Kulov is the only candidate to have been received by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev before the election. A prominent campaign poster shows him shaking hands with Medvedev.
His party advocates a strong presidency and has said it would seek to reverse the constitutional changes that favor a parliamentary democracy, in line with Moscow’s thinking. It has been fiercely critical of the interim government and has vowed to support the agricultural sector.
* Ata Zhurt (Motherland)
Leader: Kamchibek Tashiyev, a former emergencies minister who has strong support among ethnic Kyrgyz in the south of the country, including many of those who favored the previous leadership of Bakiyev.
A new party, it is strongly opposed to parliamentary rule and has been fiercely critical of the interim government.
* Respublika (Republic)
Leader: Omurbek Babanov, a former parliamentary deputy and entrepreneur.
His newly formed party says it represents the interests of business groups and is pursuing economic reforms.