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Elections and identity politics in Kyrgyzstan 1989--2009---moving beyond the 'clan politics' hypothesis.

Sjoberg, Fredrik M (2009) Elections and identity politics in Kyrgyzstan 1989--2009---moving beyond the 'clan politics' hypothesis. MPhil thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the emergence of political pluralism in the unlikely case of Kyrgyzstan. The main question is: How can we explain 'pockets of competition in semi-authoritarian states. The literature has focused on identity politics and more specifically on the 'clan politics' hypothesis, which states that competition is organized along the lines of kinship groups ('clans') and that competition is therefore fractionalized, especially in rural areas. Kyrgyzstan is shown to be a critical case for the 'clan politics' literature. The unit of analysis is two-fold: Single-Member Districts (SMD) and individual candidates in parliamentary elections 1995-2005. Evidence is provided through a candidate survey (n=160), expert interviews, and local level statistics. The whole idea that there actually exists such an informal institution as 'clan politics' in Kyrgyzstan is questioned. At least 'clans' do not exist as corporate groups that actual possess agency characteristics. A 'clan' in the Kyrgyz sense of the word, uruu/uruk, is shown to be something that necessarily involves kinship, therefore refuting a widely used metaphorical conceptualization of the phenomenon. The reason for the politization of these genealogical categories in some rural districts can be found in the incentive structure of the electoral system (SMD), the causal story being: contests were localized and no viable national-level parties existed, therefore some political entrepreneurs turned to imagined 'clans' instead to rally support. This created the impression that there were corporate 'clan' groups that coordinated electoral behavior in rural Kyrgyzstan. Competitiveness has been reduced over time, with the 1995 elections being the most fragmented in terms of Effective Number of Candidates. Until the December 2007 PR elections no new party system emerged. In 2005, the elections were especially competitive in the south, where the already mobilized campaigners later formed the backbone of the ensuing 'Tulip revolution' protests. It is shown that the introduction of election mechanisms empowered local elites to challenge the authorities. Campaign experience and financial resources were also important factors in many competitive races.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, International Relations, Asian Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Government
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2358

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