What’s sexism got to do with it

In Kunduz Rysbek’s home country Kyrgyzstan, they’ve already had a female president. Her name is Roza Otunbayeva. 

“Everyone was surprised,” Kunduz tells me over a Whatsapp call. “This is Central Asia. We don’t elect women as presidents.”

Roza Otunbayeva at the World Economic Forum in 2011. Image courtesy of Benedikt Loebell.

“How did it happen?” I ask. 

“We had two political revolutions in 2005 and 2010,” Kunduz says. “The first revolution overthrew the first president in 2005 and the second revolution ousted the second president. It was a bloody revolution. He fired at his own people. It was a shock. Then a referendum took place. We elected our first female president for two years as an interim president.

“In post Soviet States, people tend to stay in power forever. They are there until they die. Authoritarianism is very much here and present in this region.

“But Roza peacefully transferred her leadership to the next president. It was a big success and shock. Kyrgyzstan moved from a presidential to a parliamentary political system. Roza has proven to the rest of the region that there is life after presidency. This is her biggest legacy.”

Roza and Hillary in 2011.

“Why do you think Hillary lost?” I ask. 

“She was the right person at the right time,” Kunduz says. “But Hillary had a bad campaign. She didn’t get the main idea behind everyone’s concerns in the US. There is the Midwest, the Southern States, the Carolinas, Florida and Ohio. They decide the results of these elections. They wanted real change.

“In 2008, when Obama ran for president, his campaign was about change. But there was no change during his period. There were recessions, people were out of jobs. The budget was in deficit. He fixed this, but he didn’t get them the same well-paying jobs they had before. The first couple of years, they were satisfied, as its better to have some job than have no job. 

“And Congress wasn’t helping him either. People couldn’t improve their real earnings during the Obama Administration. People are working more and earning less in real terms. Of course, this pisses people off. They’ve been working and working and cannot afford to pay for university or have a nice house.

“Hillary had a lot of time to prepare for this election. She didn’t do her homework well. She should have been prepared with a strong economic program. She was focused on something she’s passionate about: foreign policy. She talked about how she fought for families and kids with legislature in the 80s. Even people who lived back then don’t remember this. She should have focused on what she was going to do in the future. She had so much support. Even the media leaned towards Hillary. She had all the necessary conditions. But she didn’t win.”


“Do you think sexism had anything to do with it?” I ask. 

“Why are we talking about sexism in 2016 when we elected a black president in 2008,” Kunduz says. “I think Bernie would have won for sure. He addressed exactly what the people wanted. He had a thoroughly worked out economic program. The Democratic Convention made a huge mistake choosing Hillary. They’ve turned off many voters with this decision. They’ve killed the passion. A lot of voters didn’t go to vote. 

“Trump supporters were much more enthusiastic about him. One enthusiastic voter brings in other voters. Unenthusiastic voters only go to vote by themselves.”

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