"Lemon Revolution" Gaining Momentum

Is the “Lemon Revolution” gaining momentum? As reported earlier, in the Kyrgystan (map here) elections yesterday 46 election districts will need to hold a second election round on March 13th because the winning candidate did not receive more than 50% of the vote.

Also…

Thousands of demonstrators blocked two key highways for several days over the past week to protest the exclusion of aspiring candidates.

The roadblocks were removed by Saturday, but disqualified candidates in one district said they would ask supporters to express their dissatisfaction by voting against all candidates.

That is exactly what happened as…

Elections were declared null and void in the Naryn region’s Kochkor election district because the number of those, who had voted against all candidates, exceeds that in favor of local candidates.

Now word is coming out that violations did occur. According to the Turkish Weekly:

Some opposition leaders organized an impromptu press conference on the square in front of the parliament building in Bishkek, yesterday. Two former foreign ministers Roza Otunbayeva and Muratbek Imanaliyev, ex-minister of education Ishengul Boldzhurova, and human rights activist Topchubek Turgunaliyev were given the floor. They said that numerous violations in the provinces had been already logged. Most frequent tricks used by the authorities included the so called merry-go-round (the use of the bulletins filled out beyond polling stations), transportation of citizens to different constituencies (and polling stations they do not belong to) by coaches, and voting without IDs. Moreover, voters “shipped” to other constituencies were paid for their services with vodka (sounds like shades of Ohio) and some trifling sums. Opposition leaders promise photos and video tapes from the regions by way of confirmation later today.

There is information much more serious. The matter concerns the reports that even the candidates who have absolutely nothing to do with the opposition find themselves under pressure too. They include deputies of the existing parliament who run for re-election in the districts already chosen by local functionaries and activists of Alga, Kyrgyzstan!, a political party headed by presidential daughter Bermet Akayeva, 32…

…between 79 and 130 appeals were made to 14 polling stations out of 15 by noon from the allegedly sick voters who wanted urns brought to them at home. So many voters who fell ill all of a sudden and had to be brought voting urns to their places without proper escort (no way to find enough observers to accompany the urns) could only be a device needed for “correct” voting in favor of a specific candidate. Dzhumakeyeva said that these voters numbered approximately 15% of the total. The outcome of the voting in this particular district can therefore be easily predicted. Otunbayeva claims that the information she has at her disposal indicates that this trick was frequently used in the provinces too where observers were even fewer.

It should be noted that independent media outlets in Kyrgyzstan had been dealt with in advance. FM broadcasts of the Kyrgyz Service of RL, Azattyk, were suspended on a clearly invented pretext several days before the election.

And, American printing house in Bishkek, the one where over a dozen independent periodicals including MSN (Moya Stolitsa – Novosti, the most popular newspaper in Bishkek) had been printed, was suddenly left without electricity the other day. The US Embassy was forced to provide it with a diesel generator on the eve of the election.

Gorky Park demonstration today…

A demonstration is expected in Gorky Park today, the only location in Bishkek where rallies are permitted. Protests against total pressure on the media will be its central slogan. Independent deputies and deputies of the opposition will have returned to Bishkek from the provinces by then. They are expected to make their reports. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, ex-premier and leader of the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan, will be back in Bishkek too. Bakiyev is viewed by many as the prime candidate for president in the election scheduled for October 2005. The demonstration may spark a series of protest actions lasting until March 13, the day of the second round of the parliamentary election. In other words, the calm yesterday may well turn out to be lull before a storm.

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