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Kyrgyzstan: Amid Protests, Ruling Party Seen Winning Elections In Landslide

A polling station in the capital, Bishkek (RFE/RL) Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev’s party appears to have won every available seat in parliament in the December 16 elections. But the opposition says it won’t accept the results, and is accusing officials of violating the election law.

Election officials announced on December 17 that based on early results, Bakiev’s Ak-Jol party is leading with nearly 48 percent of the votes. If confirmed, that outcome would give Ak-Jol all 90 available seats in the parliament.

That’s because the opposition Ata-Meken party of former parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev was the only other party to pass the nationwide threshold of 5 percent needed to enter the chamber. But while Ata-Meken picked up more than 9 percent of the vote, it failed to meet a separate requirement of taking 0.5 percent of the vote in each of Kyrgyzstan’s seven regions and two main cities. The party did not get the required votes in southern areas seen as Bakiev’s stronghold.

Opposition parties are crying foul across the board. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Rosa Otunbaeva, a co-leader of the Social-Democratic Party, accused the authorities of "horrible" violations of the election law. “For instance, in the Osh and Jalalabad regions, local authorities falsified the voting, and used their administrative resources very openly, rudely, as special forces. They worked intensively,” she said.

However, it appears to be too early to conclude that Kyrgyzstan is headed to one-party rule -- a development that would represent a break from Kyrgyzstan’s past as the most democratic state among the authoritarian republics of Central Asia. On December 18, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the 0.5 percent barrier -- which may explain why Kyrgyz officials have so far been reluctant to comment on the preliminary results.

A Step Backward

Opposition parties accuse the election officials of vote rigging, among other alleged wrongdoing. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which monitored the polls, also said they lacked transparency and were a step backward compared to the previous elections in 2005.

Ak-Jol leaders have said they sees Russia -- where President Vladimir Putin’s party controls more than two-thirds of seats in parliament -- as a role model. Neighboring Kazakhstan also has a one-party system.

The Kyrgyz opposition has threatened to take action if it is blocked from joining the chamber. The opposition said it had registered cases of forced voting and ballot stuffing.

Almaz Atambayev, the former prime minister and a co-leader of the Social-Democratic Party, has reportedly warned that there could be protests if the vote was not free and fair. Alleged fraud in the 2005 parliamentary elections led to mass protests that ousted then-President Askar Akaev and brought Bakiev to power.

Kubatbek Baibolov, a leading member of the Ata-Meken Party, told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service that his party doesn’t recognize the preliminary results.

Ata-Meken party leaders reportedly say they do not accept the election results either, and have criticized authorities for “appointing their own people to parliament.”

Many Kyrgyz independent analysts and nongovernmental organizations have also voiced dissatisfaction with the preliminary election results and the way the ballot has been conducted.

Speaking at a news conference in Bishkek today, Tolekan Ismailova, the head of the Civil Society Against Corruption, a Kyrgyz NGO, called the election results “invalid." "The most important [violation] was that the constitutional right of the citizens, the right to elect and be elected, was simply seized by violence by the authorities," she said. "Why? Because thousands Kyrgyz citizens could not find themselves on the election lists."

Despite the alleged irregularities, many voters have reportedly said they voted for Ak-Jol hoping it would be a guarantor of stability in the poverty-stricken country following years of political turmoil and street protests.

The OSCE announced on December 17 that the elections in Kyrgyzstan “failed to meet a number of OSCE commitments, despite respect for some that underscore existing pluralism.”

Speaking at a news conference in Bishkek, Kimmo Kiljunen, special coordinator of the OSCE short-term observers and leader of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, called the ballot a “missed opportunity.”

"Having led the past two OSCE election observation mission here in Kyrgyzstan, I am personally disappointed that there is now a back-sliding in the election process," Kiljunen said. "Political pluralism, which I have seen develop, is undermined by this missed opportunity."

In contrast, the 150-strong CIS monitoring mission praised the ballot, saying Kyrgyzstan had passed a test of democratic elections.

(RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report. With material from agency reports.)