Prague, 10 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Twenty deputies from Kyrgyzstan's Legislative Assembly, the lower house of parliament, gathered today to discuss the public protests since the first round of voting on 27 February.
They had hoped to call both houses of parliament into an emergency session. But they never even got inside, as police kept anyone from entering the building, which authorities say is undergoing repairs.
With just 20 of the lower house's 60 deputies present, they failed to muster a quorum. Instead, they conducted a "parliamentary hearing" and issued a statement to decry what they believe is official wrongdoing surrounding the elections. The statement accuses authorities of breaking the law, using their powers to exclude opposition candidates, pressuring voters, and interfering with the media.
Opposition deputy Alevtina Pronenko read the group's demands, which include a call for a presidential election sooner than its planned October date. "We demand that President [Askar] Akaev hold early presidential elections in July 2005, extend the term of the current parliament until November 2005, [and] ensure the adoption of legislation for parliamentary elections to be based on a proportional system," she said.
Limited to two terms by the Kyrgyz Constitution, President Akaev has vowed to leave office following the October election. But opposition groups have been skeptical.
Adding to the opposition doubts is a campaign by a group calling itself "With the People -- For the People." That group has been gathering signatures to force a national referendum on extending Akaev's term in office. The group needs 300,000 signatures. The latest reports suggest they have nearly 200,000 signatures so far.
Opposition deputy Nikolai Bailo, who also heads the Communist Party, said Akaev must uphold the constitution. Part of that obligation, he suggested, was to allow deputies to meet inside the parliament building. Otherwise, Bailo said, Akaev should give up power:
"We demand from the guarantor of the constitution, Askar Akaev, that as of tomorrow the building of a legitimate authority of Kyrgyzstan -- the Legislative Assembly and the People's Assembly [the upper house] -- be unblocked by the law enforcement agencies that today occupied it and [that authorities] allow the activities of a legitimate branch of power. In an extreme case, the Legislative Assembly will find it necessary to strip Askar Akaev of his powers and transfer them to the toraga [speaker] of the Legislative Assembly," Bailo said. "Thank you."
The deputies said in their statement that the lockout from the parliament building amounted to a coup d'etat.
They also had special criticism for the country's Central Election Commission. The group accused the commission of rigging last month's vote.
Commission Chairman Sulaiman Imanbaev said today that he had not seen the deputies' statement but had heard about their demands through the media. He dismissed their ultimatum as having no legal basis.
"No single meeting has a right to disperse the Central Election Commission. I will repeat it once more: no parliament, no president has the right to stop [commission] activities. It is the same for the [Kyrgyz] government. The only [body] that can deal with the issue is the judiciary," Imanbaev said.
Meanwhile, to the south -- in Kyrgyzstan's second city of Osh -- the situation was tense after Mayor Satyvaldy Chyrmashev suggested yesterday that he might impose a state of emergency.
Some 300 protesters completed their march from the town of Kara-Kulja to Osh yesterday to highlight their discontent with parliamentary elections. Fearing violence, troops from the Interior Ministry were rushed to the city's outskirts to prevent the demonstrators from entering the city.
The protesters were mainly ethnic Kyrgyz, and rumors spread that ethnic Uzbek supporters of President Akaev were preparing to keep the marchers out of Osh. Such a rumor brought back memories of violent clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the Osh area in 1990.
But Uzbek community leader Anvar Artykov sought to ease tensions, telling RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the dispute in Osh is not interethnic but represents a difference of political opinion. Artykov, who is a member of parliament, said that not all of Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek community supports President Akaev. He also condemned the late-February parliamentary balloting.
"I think, the (parliamentary) elections held on February 27 were amongst dirties elections ever held in Kyrgyzstan," Artykov said.
Nearby, in the Uzgen Raion of Osh Oblast, several hundred protesters continued to occupy the district administration building. In Jalal-Abad to the north, several thousand protesters similarly occupied a provincial administration building.
Protests also continued today in the eastern Naryn Oblast, where some 1,500 demonstrators have staged days of protests. Those protesters yesterday made two unsuccessful attempts to occupy the provincial administration building.
Demonstrations also erupted for the first time in the far southern Batken Oblast, where some 50 people rallied for free elections today.
Demonstrations are reportedly planned in the coming days for Issyk-Kul and Talas oblasts, with the hotly disputed second round runoffs slated for 13 March.
(Tynchtykbek Tchoroev of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)For news, background, and analysis on Kyrgyzstan's 27 February parliamentary elections and the demonstrations leading up to the 13 March runoff, see RFE/RL's webpage "Kyrgyzstan Votes 2005".