SOME OBSERVERS CONCERNED ABOUT UNREST IN WAKE OF DISPUTED ELECTION IN KYRGYZSTAN
Ongoing protests over Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary election results may inaugurate a prolonged period of domestic unrest, some analysts in the Central Asian nation say.
Demonstrators gathered in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek for the second day March 16 to protest vote-rigging in parliamentary run-off elections held four days earlier. Many of the protesters were supporters of Feliks Kulov, a leading opposition politician who lost his run-off contest, despite winning more than double the votes of any of his opponents in the first round of voting February 20. International and local election observers have documented numerous voting irregularities during both rounds of voting.
Protests were also held March 16 in the western town of Kara-Buura, Kulov's election constituency, and in the southern city of Jalalabad. Thousands of protestors in Bishkek have signed a petition calling on the government to stage new elections in which all opposition figures are eligible. The Central Election Commission had barred some opposition candidates and parties from competingm in the March 12 vote, citing faulty registration documentation. Some disqualified politicians charged that the election commission's actions were politically motivated.
Representatives of President Askar Akayev's government have defended the election as free and fair. Official results show that of the 15 parliamentary seats allocated to political parties, the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan won five seats; the Union of Democratic Forces obtained four; the Democratic Party of Women gained two seats; the Party of Veterans of the Afghan War received two seats; and the Ata-Meken, or Fatherland, Party and My Country Party of Action each won one seat. The remaining 45 seats in parliament were directly contested by individual candidates.
OSCE Secretary General Jan Kubis, citing election irregularities noted by OSCE observers, has portrayed the conduct of the run-offs as "a blemish on the president's prestige," the Reuters news agency reported. Kubis indicated that a final OSCE report on the parliamentary elections would be published towards the end of March.
The results belie Kyrgyzstan's image of being an "island of democracy," said Ramazan Dyryldayev, head of the Kyrgyzstan Committee for Human Rights. "Our leaders will say one thing for a Western audience, and then act in a completely different and secretive manner."
Dyryldayev added that ballot fraud should not come as a surprise. "Authorities are seeking to preserve their power. Corruption is rampant