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Kyrgyzstan: Protests Erupt Over Barring Of Opposition Candidates From Election

Demonstrations have erupted across Kyrgyzstan today, just days ahead of the 27 February parliamentary elections. The protests -- in at least three of the country’s seven oblasts -- are the most widespread in the run-up to the vote so far and are in response to the exclusion of some opposition candidates from poll.

Prague, 22 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A crowd numbering several thousand people blocked a major highway in Kochkor Raion in the eastern Naryn Oblast today.

The protesters demanded that officials reverse a decision to bar the main opposition challengers from running in Sunday’s poll.

Local election officials in the Kochkor Raion canceled the registrations of opposition candidates Akylbek Japarov and Beishenbek Bolotbekov.
Japarov said his disqualification, and that of Bolotbekov, were the result of a plot to bar them from competing.

The decision leaves only Kyrgyzstan’s former Soviet-era leader, 86-year-old Turdakun Usubaliev, and some lesser-known candidates, to compete for Kochkor Raion’s parliamentary seat.

Japarov said his disqualification, and that of Bolotbekov, were the result of a plot to bar them from competing.

"We, Beishen Bolotbekov and I, said that we don't have any complaints against each other. However, in order to provide an opportunity [to remove us from the list], one or two women from Jumgal Raion [in the same constituency] filed a lawsuit against me, pretending to be supporters of Beishen Bolotbekov, and two women who pretended to be my supporters, complained against Bolotbekov. This occasion gave [the authorities] to exclude our candidacy. They even did not ask for the passports of the plaintiffs. The judge said me that he respects me, however, there was an order from the top to be excluded. And they excluded us from the race. That is it," Japarov said.

Naryn Oblast Governor Shamshybek Medetbekov told reporters that protesters had set up two yurts, or tents, to block the Bishkek-Torugart highway as it runs through Kochkor.

"The crowd there [in Kochkor Raion] had closed the highway. We have an international Bishkek-Torugart [to Kashghar] highway. They set up two yurts there [on the road] and I was told that there are more than 1,500 people gathered on highway," Medetbekov said.

Separately, some 500 protesters also took to the streets in the southern Jalal-Abad Oblast over news that a prominent opposition figure could also be barred from running there. The opposition figure, former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, is currently the leader of the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan, an electoral bloc that combines nine opposition parties and movements.

Police were reported to have closed the bloc’s office this morning. The protesters staged their rally outside of the bloc’s closed premises.

Elsewhere in Jalal-Abad Oblast, Krgyzstan’s state news agency Kabar reported protesters were starting to block the Bishkek-Osh highway, the country’s main traffic artery. There, too, protesters are said to be demanding the office of the People’s Movement of Kyrgyzstan be reopened.

Meanwhile, in the northeastern oblast of Issyk-Kul, demonstrators blocked the Balykchy-Karakol road. The independent Kyrgyz news agency AKIpress cited opposition figures as saying some 2,500 people were blocking the road using logs and garbage to protest the barring of opposition candidate Arslanbek Maliev from the parliamentary race.