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Kyrgyzstan: Court Affirms Candidate Ban Amid Continued Protests

  • Bruce Pannier --> Opposition supporters tried unsuccessfully today to occupy a regional administrative building in an eastern province of Kyrgyzstan as demonstrations continue ahead of the second round of parliamentary elections on 13 March. Protesters in Naryn Oblast have had the building in the provincial capital surrounded for days, and only temporarily suspended their blockade of a major highway. They are challenging the authorities' decision to remove the local incumbent -- opposition candidate Ishenbai Kadyrbekov -- from the ballot ahead of the 13 March runoff.

Prague, 9 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Voters in District 33 learned late today that the two-man runoff planned for 13 March will instead be a single-candidate affair.

A Bishkek court today upheld a local court's ruling barring Ishenbai Kadyrbekov from the race. The court had been expected to issue its decision tomorrow, but instead assembled today and rendered a verdict that is likely to encourage further protests.

Kadyrbekov, an incumbent communist with more than a decade in the national parliament, made it through the first round of elections on 27 February with a second-place finish to a local drinks manufacturer.

But his preparations for the second round were cut short on 7 March, when a Naryn regional court nullified his candidacy. The court said his team campaigned outside the allowable period. It also concluded that Kadyrbekov had improperly participated in an unsanctioned rally in the Kyrgyz capital in early March.
Protesters in Naryn blame President Askar Akaev and his administration for Kadyrbekov's disqualification.

That decision featured prominently in today's attempt to seize the regional administration building in the city of Naryn. Protesters in Naryn blame President Askar Akaev and his administration for Kadyrbekov's disqualification. Demonstrators had surrounded the building for days, chanting anti-Akaev slogans, as they did this afternoon: "Akayev get out! Forever! We are for justice!"

Kadyrbekov claims the decision barring him from competing in elections must have had government support. "I think, here are local authority play a big role in our case," he said. "But at the same time, Naryn authorities couldn't act in such a way without support from the Kyrgyz government -- against the local people. Now thousands of people are demonstrating; they are very nervous."

Protests are continuing in four of Kyrgyzstan's seven provinces. Some began before the first round of voting -- in fact, calling for honest and fair elections. Now, many feel the first round was neither free nor fair. And new reasons to demonstrate appear to be emerging as well.

In Naryn Oblast, Kadyrbekov's case is one such reason.

The man who beat Kadyrbekov by two percentage points in the first round is Karganbek Samakov. He said the local election commission and regional court acted properly in rejecting Kadyrbekov's candidacy, and he said the protests in Naryn have been illegal.

"What is happening in District 33 is fine. The court has upheld the district election commission's ruling. All these calls for overturning that decision are illegal. Everything is in the hands of the court. Let the court decide," Samakov said.

But even that seemingly simple approach begs questions. The issue of Kadyrbekov's candidacy was first visited by the regional court in Naryn Oblast. Now, since the case involves the country's Central Election Commission, it will be decided by a court in the capital Bishkek. That court today postponed consideration of the case until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the situation in Naryn is getting increasingly complicated.

Protesters agreed late yesterday to remove a roadblock they set up several days ago, leaving some 800 vehicles with goods bound for China stranded. Kadyrbekov urged protesters to clear the blockade. But they say they will again block the highway if the Bishkek court does not reinstate Kadyrbekov's candidacy.

Seven of Kadyrbekov's supporters also declared a hunger strike yesterday. They were joined by two members of the local election commission. The commission members offered their own motives for their hunger strike, as district commission Chairwoman Gulzat Abdrasulova explained: "There is pressure on us from two sides," she said. "From Kadyrbekov's side, people are calling on us but we cannot perform our job. We called both candidates to come to see us. Until both come, we decided to go on a hunger strike."

As legal maneuvering continues, protesters in Naryn have grown increasingly anxious. One woman, demonstrating outside the provincial administration building, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that state television is misleading the country into believing everything is quiet in the province.

"Here we are, standing near the government building [in the city of Naryn]," she said. "But on state television, they always say elections in Naryn were clean and fair. We have been standing here for three days. This is an attempt to trick the people. My whole family supports Kadyrbekov. He has served his constituency."

Protesters in Naryn were already linking their actions to those of demonstrators in the southern Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts.

Meanwhile, some 20 deputies in the current parliament called today for an emergency session of both houses of parliament tomorrow. The deputies want to review opposition calls to annul the results of the February voting and hold an early presidential election.

(Venera Djumataeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

For news, background, and analysis on Kyrgyzstan's 27 February parliamentary elections, see RFE/RL's webpage "Kyrgyzstan Votes 2005".