Kyrgyzstan Elections Today

Is This the Next Stop for Democracy?

From the Institue for War and Peace Reporting:


Thousands of people across Kyrgyzstan have taken to the streets to back election candidates disqualified from running in the parliamentary poll.

The protests are widespread, spanning four regions of Kyrgyzstan – Issykkul, Talas, Naryn and Jalalabad.

Many of the candidates involved are not associated with the opposition, and are either pro-government or not aligned with either side. They allege these individuals have been barred from running on spurious grounds, to allow the regime to insert its current favourites into local constituencies and ensure there are no strong rivals to prevent them being elected to parliament.

The wave of discontent began February 21 in Talas where 2,000 supporters of parliamentary hopeful Ravshan Jeenbekov demonstrated outside a local court house to protest the revoking of his registration. The decision was eventually reversed so that Jeenbekov was able to stand. Also in Talas, 800 followers of candidate Bolotbek Sherniyazov gathered to protest interference by the local electricity company, which promised to wipe out unpaid electricity bills for voters who backed Sherniyazov’s rival, ex-speaker of parliament Altai Borubaev.

Demonstrators in the Issykkul region scored a notable victory after they blocked roads in Tyup and forced officials to lift their disqualification of a local candidate, Sadyr Japarov. Elsewhere in the region, protesters occupied a local government building but as of February 25, their candidate Arslan Maliev remained disqualified.

There have also been crack downs on the media…

On February 24, state regulators closed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz service, Azattyk, for an undisclosed period. The authorities recently announced they would be auctioning off the local frequencies which Azattyk now uses to broadcast, under the pretext of raising money to modernise the radio network.

Electricity to the United States-funded Independent Printing House in Bishkek, where most opposition newspapers are printed, was cut on February 22. Observers suspect a power outage so soon before the election was a deliberate attempt to prevent the printing of more than 40 newspapers and other publications, some but not all of which are critical of the regime. However, plant officials used a generator to continue printing, and plan to sue the electricity company.
President Akaev said on February 18 that he intends to sue the opposition newspaper Moya Stolitsa Novosti, MSN, for libelling him. The following day, more than 200 protestors gathered in Bishkek in support of MSN.

The US stand is a clear result of the Bush Doctrine…

It is noticeable that the US supports the opposition and insists on changing the government even though the government had opened an air corridor to the US and given them a military base to use during the Afghanistan operation. Commentators say that acting in this way, the US is trying to encourage change in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and especially the Central Asia countries.

There are reports of voting irregularities coming in already…

“Reports have been arriving since the morning about flagrant violations of election regulations and about the use of administrative pressure during the elections and during preparations for the elections,” Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the Ata-Zhurt (Fatherland) opposition movement told the press on Sunday.

“The elections are unfair and are likely to be followed by a wave of popular protests,” Otunbayeva said.

Although, the president’s hand picked candidate, his daughter, says otherwise…

The Kyrgyz president’s daughter Bermet Akayeva told journalists at a polling station that “vote rigging is impossible in the elections.”

“The parliamentary elections are proceeding in an open atmosphere. Everything has been done to demonstrate that free, open and transparent elections are being held in Kyrgyzstan,” said Akayeva.

Could this be the next “Ukraine”?

small demonstrations last month, which led to restrictions on rallies, fuelled speculation that Kyrgyzstan could see mass protests such as those in Ukraine last year and Georgia in 2003, both prompted by rigged votes.

“This is not a free, not a fair, and not a transparent election,” said Roza Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister who has emerged as a key opposition figure.

She said the apparent blocking of several opposition websites, and suspension of a frequency used by US-funded Azattyk radio, the only independent news source in remote areas, could provoke protests.

As usual the bloggers lead the way on the latest news.

Update: (5:15 PM) A big thank you to Michelle Malkin for taking notice.

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