Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

“A people who sell themselves for vodka have no future!”

Protests in the southern province of Osh in Kyrgyzstan continued over the last several days over the suspicious win by the pro-government candidate. Rumors of illegal voters and bribery with money or vodka are being talked about:

Up to 3,000 people have gathered outside the municipal offices in the Aravan and Karasuu districts of the southern Kyrgyz province of Osh over the past three days in protest against last week’s national election results, officials said.

The office of the provincial prosecutor told IRIN that the protesters in Aravan were supporters of Tursunbay Alimov, head of a local village council and a defeated parliamentary candidate, were demanding a recount of ballots in one of the polling stations.

Preliminary election results indicated that Alimov’s opponent, Muhamadjan Mamasaidov – president of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek University in Osh city, capital of the province with the same name, nominated by the pro-government “Alga, Kyrgyzstan” political party – won with just 355 votes more.

Under Kyrgyz election law if there are only two candidates in a one-mandate constituency then the one who gets a simple majority is considered the winner.

The situation is similar in neighbouring Karasuu district, where more than 200 people were blocking the roads linking the district with the provincial capital and the city of Uzgen, where the only road to the north of the country passes. Supporters of Arap Tolonov, one of the candidates, were protesting against alleged vote rigging and demanding repeat polls.

“I have seen tens of elections, but have never seen such “dirty” polls,” Halimbay Mamajanov, 80, another voter, told IRIN. “There was an open and deliberate bribing of voters through endless free meals, alcohol to young people and distribution of ‘presents’. Also it was obvious that the authorities used their administrative resources and power, while the contesting parties deployed their subordinates and some organisations that were ‘supporting’ them.”

The Turkish Weekly reports that there were more drunks on the street than usual…

“Hot meals, a sea of vodka, 300 soms [seven US dollars] for each voter, distribution of grain and food, and the 50 minibus taxis used to ferry people to vote – that’s just an incomplete list of the violations,” Akunov told IWPR.

He concluded sadly, “I am very disappointed by the mindset of people in Naryn. They voted for people who bought them.”

Akunov’s sense of disappointment was shared by protesters, who carried placards saying, “A people who sell themselves for vodka have no future!”, “You’ll spend the money you received in two days!” and “People’s conscience cannot be bought!”

Anecdotal evidence suggested that on voting day, there were many more drunks than usual on the streets of Naryn.

“Five dollars is not to be sneezed at,” said one such voter, who did not want to give his name.

“The authorities won because they have created a system where having the money to buy a piece of bread right now is what counts,” said Oksana Malevannaya, a member of the Moya Strana party, another first-round loser. “Voters were bought beforehand, or intimidated at the polling station by people who warned them that it would be possible to find out who they voted for.”

“Right now the Kyrgyz people resemble a neglected child who is only given attention during elections. Yet we are undoubtedly an intelligent and talented people who have a bright future.”

Meanwhile the US urges a Kyrgyzstan to Respect Media Freedom

The United States called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan March 3 to restore electrical power immediately to the country’s only independent printing house and to permit Radio Liberty broadcasts at their previous capacity.

Power to the printing press, which is funded by the United States, the Netherlands and Norway, was cut off February 22 just days before the country’s parliamentary elections, U.S. diplomat Paul Jones told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The government of Kyrgyzstan refused to allow Radio Liberty broadcasts to some regions beginning February 25.

Restoring power to the printing press and allowing Radio Liberty to resume broadcasting at its previous capacity will contribute to a democratic March 13 run-off contest, said Jones, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE.

“It will also serve to demonstrate Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to a future in which freedom of expression and an independent media occupy central roles,” he said.

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