Protests Grow Stronger in Kyrgyzstan

Protesters are now setting up a “Yurt City” at one of the demonstration sites in Kyrgyzstan:

More people are reportedly making their way to the protests that have been under way in Kyrgyzstan for several days now…

…In the protests, demonstrators have occupied government buildings in two places– one in the capital of the southern oblast of Jalal-Abad, the other in the southern oblast of Osh. They have also blocked a key road in the east of the country.

One of the biggest demonstration is in Jalal-Abad, where 3,000 protesters have taken to the streets. There the demonstrators accuse local authorities of rigging the first round of the parliamentary election to assure the defeat of a popular opposition candidate…

…Raising the stakes in Jalal-Abad, former Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan election bloc Kurmanbek Bakiev joined the protesters on 6 March. It was Bakiev’s first public appearance at a protest and is significant because he is the leader of the biggest opposition bloc in the country.

Bakiev is running for a seat in parliament in another district and faces a runoff in the second round of parliamentary elections on 13 March. He has stated he will also run for the nation’s top post in presidential elections scheduled for October.

Events in Jalal-Abad have been partly mirrored in the Uzgen district of Osh Oblast. There some 300 protesters were occupying the district administrative building.

In the eastern Naryn Oblast, demonstrators continue to block the Bishkek-Torugart highway that links Kyrgyzstan to China. Protesters have set up yurts, the traditional felt tents of steppe nomads, on the highway, stopping traffic near the village of Karachiy.

Radio Free Europe reported that like protesters in Jalal-Abad and Osh, protesters tried unsuccessfully to occupy another government building in eastern Naryn Oblast today:

Protesters in the southern Jalal-Abad and Osh oblasts have been occupying provincial and regional administrative buildings for several days.

Meanwhile, a group of some 300 protesters from the town of Kara-Kulja reached the southern city of Osh today. Troops from the Interior Ministry were reportedly blocking the group from entering the city.

And, Interfax is reporting that following previous requests earlier in the week, Parliament is preparing to gather for an emergency session on March 10 , Zeina Kurmanov, leader of the Right Coalition centrist faction, said on Monday.

“The signatures have already been collected. To hold an emergency parliamentary session, one-third of the deputies must support the motion. The emergency session will be held on March 10,” he said.

However, the OSCE (that called the original elections fair) and pro-government groups are painting a different picture through the official news service:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which criticized the Kyrgyz government’s behavior during the campaign leading up to the first round of parliamentary voting on February 27, expressed disapproval on March 8 of the opposition’s protests methods. In a written statement, OSCE Ambassador Markus Muller, acknowledged the opposition’s right to protest the first-round results, but he emphasized that “election shortcomings may not be a reason for occupying government buildings and blocking roads.”

Opposition leaders also were rebuked by the chairman of Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission, Sulaiman Imanbayev. On March 7, opposition leaders called for early presidential elections and the extension of the sitting parliament’s mandate for one year. They additionally revealed that they sought to convene a special session of the current parliament, aiming to get the second-round of voting postponed. Imanbayev insisted on March 9 that there was no legal basis for any of the actions advocated by opposition leaders. He went on to describe the opposition’s position as “incorrect,” and called on Kyrgyz citizens to disregard it, the official Kabar news agency reported.

Update: (5:00PM) The Great Instapundit gives more time to the Kyrgyzstan cause.

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