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Kyrgyzstan Votes For New Parliament

Women inspect a ballot today in Bishkek Bishkek, 27 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Polls have opened in Kyrgyzstan where voters are choosing a new parliament.

Nearly 400 candidates are running for 75 parliamentary seats.

Voting, however, has been delayed for two weeks in the Tong district of the Issyk-Kul region. The Central Election Commission said demonstrations there made it impossible to get ballots to polling stations on time as roads in the region were blocked by protestors.

The demonstrators were protesting the Electoral Commission's decision to disqualify local opposition candidate Arslanbek Maliev.

Leading opposition Kyrgyz opposition figure Roza Otunbaeva has predicted any attempts by Kyrgyz authorities to rig today's vote could spark protests. In an interview with RFE/RL, she also accused Kyrgyz authorities of shutting down opposition websites and trying to block the distribution of its newspapers.

"All the very important and indispensable web sites have been closed today," Otunbaeva said. "For instance, the 'Eurasia,' 'Central Asia,' and '' web sites."

The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Stephen Young, has said bilateral ties could suffer if today's election does not meet U.S. democratic standards. The Kyrgyz government has warned Washington that interference in the country's internal affairs could have "unpredictable" consequences.

(RFE/RL/wire reports)

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

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