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Kyrgyzstan: Supporters Of Barred Candidate Block Roads

Scene from protests after the killing of Tynychbek Akmatbaev in October 2005 (file photo) (RFE/RL) Traffic along the northern shore of Kyrgyzstan's largest lake was brought to a standstill on March 30. The reason: a decision by the country's electoral authorities to bar a candidate from running in a by-election in a case that also casts a sidelight on the issues of corruption and organized crime in Kyrgyz politics.

PRAGUE, March 30, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The decision of Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Committee (CEC) is being given a particularly high profile because the would-be candidate, Rysbek Akmatbaev, was running for a post that his brother, Tynychbek, had occupied before he was killed last October.

It was Tynchbek Akmatbaev's murder that prompted his brother to become a public figure. He called loudly for the dismissal of Prime Minister Feliks Kulov, arguing that Kulov was responsible for his brother's death, in a prison riot. That claim was subsequently dismissed by a parliamentary investigation.

But Akmatbaev's emergence from obscurity also threw the spotlight on his connections with the underworld, with critics alleging that he is the boss of a criminal syndicate.

Victory in the by-election, in the Balykchy district, could have been politically embarrassing, as the Kyrgyz government is conducting a high-profile campaign against corruption. One of the specific goals of the drive is to purge criminal elements from politics.

However, it was not Akmatbaev's controversial background that was his political undoing -- officially at least. The CEC ruled him out on a technicality -- that he had not lived in Kyrgyzstan continuously for the past five years.

Edil Baisalov, the leader of a coalition of NGOs that goes by the name For Democracy and Civil Society, welcomed the decision, calling it "entirely correct and legal. There is no need to even comment on that."

Baisalov's group, and other nongovernmental organizations, had been calling on the Kyrgyz government to prevent Akmatbaev from running because of his alleged links to the underworld.

But Baisalov warned that "authorities should be prepared for provocations from so-called supporters of Akmatbaev."

Demonstrators Cut Off Road At Four Points

Scene from demonstrations following the killing of Tynychbek Akmatbaev in October 2005 (RFE/RL)

Baisalov swiftly proved correct. Several hundred of Akmatbaev's supporters demonstrated in the Balykchy district, blocking a two-lane road at four points.

A local RFE/RL correspondent reported that at one point -- the village of Karaoy – vehicles were backed up for three kilometers, with about 200 cars, a dozen minibuses, and a number of buses in the traffic jam.

The governor of Issyk-Kul province, Esengul Omuraliev, called on Akmatbaev's supporters to disperse.

Omuraliev also asked the CEC to send representatives to the site to explain the commission's decision to Akmatbaev's supporters.

Maksat Sydykov, Akmatbaev's representative in Balykchy, condemned the CEC's decision, saying that "whatever happens we will complain about any decision" that prevents Akmatbaev from running.

The CEC's ruling may ensure that Akmatbaev will not become a political embarrassment, but it is already clear that his supporters will keep him in the public eye.

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

RFE/RL Central Asia Report

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