It doesn’t matter which parliament you’ve been elected to – starting out as a new MP is always a disorienting experience. The induction training in Kyrgyzstan has helped a remarkably young intake get to grips with their important new roles.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is committed to helping Kyrgyzstan as it steadily develops its democracy. Our analysis of the state of multi-party politics, presented at a Bishkek event in September, showed that the evolution of the factions system remains a work in progress. After the election of the Sixth Convocation of the Parliament this autumn, there’s a real opportunity for some big steps forward.
A developing parliament, though, is all about the people inside it – and it’s clear the new arrivals are committed to making a difference. “For me as a pedagogue, and a person who always doubts and questions things, it is important to find the truth and act sincerely and correctly,” Evgeniya Strokova MP of the SDPK faction tells us. “So I’m looking forward to deliver good results of my work and feel excited about that.”
Above: Evgeniya Strokova MP of the SDPK faction
She and the other MPs who participated in the November 20-22 induction event removed themselves from their offices to a neutral venue where they could escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday politics. They received presentations and briefings on the functions and powers of Parliament, how Parliament interacts with the institutions of Government and how they, as new MPs, will fit in.
“The training is timely, because for new MPs it is important to perform in the Parliament in the right way,” the Bir Bol faction’s Lunara Mamytova MP tells us. Whatever their faction, all the new arrivals find themselves grappling with a very complex institution. Understanding the roles and functions of parliament, legislative processes, outreach work with the electorate, and mechanisms of cooperation with civil society: there’s certainly a lot for new MPs to get on with.
“Before being inducted it was really difficult for me as a new MP to understand the structure and work of the Parliament, regulations,” Aisulu Mamasheva MP of Ata Meken says. “We needed this training in order to perform well and I think we are prepared now to start to function as a qualified parliament.”
Above: Aisulu Mamasheva MP of Ata Meken faction
One experienced Kyrgyzstan politician, ProfessorZainidin Kurmanov, a former Speaker, says the 120-member Jogorku Kengesh is now at the stage of its development where experienced and dynamic specialists are essential. Induction trainings like this, he suggested, are becoming an established tradition. “We were developing quite fast over the last few years, and we need to keep that going,” he explains. “We cannot wait until people change and become mature. It would be great if the Sixth Convocation of the Parliament played an active role in changing people’s lives. If the parliament is proactive, there’s a chance for us to get out of the economic crisis and for the country to become more stable.”
Kyrgyzstan’s Jogorku Kengesh has changed a lot since it first met in 1991, but Prof. Kurmanov now believes the pace of change should be accelerated. “We need to move towards revolutionary changes, not evolutionary – we simply have no time for that and it would be even worse for us,” he adds. “The Parliament should lead the country towards positive changes and achieve our stated goals.”
WFD believes that supporting the secretariats of the factions, which face considerable challenges in fulfilling their roles and functions in a parliamentary system, is critical to this. Our analysis found there isn’t a strong link between a party’s manifesto and its behaviour in coalitions. Parliament continues to bear many hallmarks of a presidential majoritarian system as well as its Soviet legacy. The opposition in parliament, moreover, lacks the capacity it needs to provide really forceful scrutiny of the well-resourced majority coalition’s activities.
The new MPs at the induction event have a strong appetite for more assistance. “I would recommend you and other donor organisations facilitate meetings with factions and committees so that we can build up new dialogues and develop tools for effective work,” MP Emil Toktoshov of the Ata Meken faction, who says he “learned a lot” at the induction, urges. Aisulu Mamasheva, also of Ata Meken, adds: “Even more, I would rather ask you to conduct other trainings that could be interesting and useful for MPs. For example, it would be interesting for us to know how parliaments operate in other countries. I also understood that we need some instruments to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of factions’ work. We need to raise the capacity of secretariats. We are in the process of adaptation now, so we need such trainings, qualified staff in secretariats to become efficient as quick as we can.”
WFD’s programme in Kyrgyzstan aims to meet this demand. In the coming months and years, we will work with the secretariats of the factions to help boost their effectiveness. The new convocation offers exciting possibilities for WFD – and the new MPs who will be shaping it.
“I may have some confusions now,” Evgeniya Strokova adds, “because I’m a new person here, but I found the induction training extremely interesting. I’m very excited to use the knowledge I got, and I’ll definitely do so in my work as an MP.”