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Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Holds Protest Ahead Of First Election Results

The opposition protest today The Kyrgyz opposition held demonstrations in central Bishkek and in the south of the country today ahead of the first preliminary results to be released by the Central Election Commission from yesterday’s parliamentary elections. Some 500 people in the capital holding yellow and pink signs protested against alleged election fraud as well as the harassment of media outlets such as the daily “Moya Stolitsa Noviosti” and RFE/RL’s Radio Azattyk. Several thousand more rallied in southern regions.

Bishkek, 28 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, leaders from the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) and Ar-Namys (Dignity) parties, along with members of the KelKel youth organization and representatives of independent media demonstrated in the Kyrgyz capital today by holding signs that read: “A Fair Vote is A Bright Future,” “We Want To Know,” “For Freedom of Speech,” “You Can’t Shut Everyone’s Mouth!” and “Azattyk is the People’s Voice.”

Roza Otunbayeva, a co-leader of Ata-Jurt who was not allowed to register as a candidate for the election, spoke at the rally.

“All of us have the same point of view. We stand for a new Kyrgyzstan, for changes in this country,” Otunbayeva said.

Alleged election fraud was the main subject of the rally.

Nurlan Motuyev, one of the leaders of the People’s Patriotic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, told RFE/RL that the purpose of the meeting is to protest against election fraud.
“In Kyrgyzstan, at present, there are all the right conditions for KelKel to become a powerful and respected youth organization before [October’s] presidential election. [KelKel] will defend the rights of the youth and students.”

“We gathered in order to explain to people what is going on in the country, what happened during elections,” Motuyev said.

Emil Aliyev, one of the leaders of Ar-Namys, who ran against Bermet Akayeva -- President Askar Akaev’s daughter -- for a seat in the parliament, also spoke about alleged election fraud.

“People gathered here to express their opinion on elections, because the elections were marred by fraud. Fraud was planned in advance during the making of the voters’ lists. The fraud continued on election day when there was mass bribery [of voters]. Bribes were not only big, they were huge, because [the candidates] collected a lot of money over the last 15 years. In most of the districts candidates who spent $200,000-250,000 on the election campaign won their seats. Money played a big role in these elections,” Aliyev said.

According to the Kyrgyz Electoral Code, a candidate can spend 500,000 soms (about $12,300) during the election campaign.

The Kyrgyz opposition’s goal was to gain one-third of the 75 seats in the parliament. Early results from the elections are expected today. The Central Election Commission said some 57 percent of eligible voters took part in the elections.

Aliyev says the goal now is to work for opposition candidates in the second round of elections that are expected be held on 13 March.

“The next step is to help [opposition] candidates in the districts where they will run in the second round in order to get few more seats,” Aliyev said.

The KelKel youth organization, which is an opposition group trying to get young people more involved in politics, is also protesting against alleged fraud. Alisher Mamasaliyev, the main leader of KelKel, told RFE/RL that yesterday’s elections showed the need for greater youth participation in politics and for more political awareness. He said KelKel plans to continue its work.

“In Kyrgyzstan, at present, there are all the right conditions for KelKel to become a powerful and respected youth organization before [October’s] presidential election. [KelKel] will defend the rights of the youth and students.”

Harassment of the independent media before the elections was the other issue that demonstrators spoke about. They particularly protested against the lawsuit that Kyrgyz President Akaev filed against the independent “Moya Stolitsa Noviosti” newspaper, which wrote about the business and property holdings that the Akaev family allegedly possess.

And on 24 February, authorities ended the medium-wave transmission of the broadcasts by Radio Azattyk, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz-language broadcasts.

Otunbayeva added: “Here in Bishkek, Azattyk still in heard [via a private radio broadcaster and on shortwave]. But ‘Moya Stolitsa’ and ‘Res Publica’ face enormous pressure. Our president couldn’t stand it and so he filed a lawsuit [against ‘MSN’]. It is not because the problems of the country are being solved, but because his family was a subject of the [criticism]. This is the country we live in.”

Demonstrators also said postelection coverage of the voting on national TV and radio stations was limited only to reports from the Central Election Commission.

Rallies are also being held in the Aravan Raion of the Osh region. Different sources report anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 people taking part in the protests. In Nooken Raion, within the Jalal-Abad region, some 1,000 people were also rallying.

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