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Kyrgyz Opposition Threatens Protests

20 December 2004 -- Kyrgyzstan's opposition today threatened massive protests if authorities rig next year's parliamentary elections, and dismissed warnings by President Askar Akaev that opposition groups could try to forcibly seize power.

Muratbek Imanaliev, leader of the opposition New Direction movement, said his group would back protests if election fraud is discovered during the poll set for February 2005.

Zamira Sydykova, a senior official of the opposition People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan, also said she would back such protests.

On 17 December, Akaev warned of a possible "dramatic escalation" of social and political tensions next year, when a presidential poll is set for October.

Imanaliev today said Akaev's warning was groundless and showed that authorities are "in hysteria."