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Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Mounts Rallies, Hunger Strikes Over Vote Results

President Bakiev welcomed the results as a reflection of popular will (ITAR-TASS) The announcement of official election results in Kyrgyzstan appears to have compounded election disputes rather than eased tensions stemming from a landslide vote under recently enacted election legislation.

The Central Election Commission says the opposition party Ata-Meken (Fatherland) failed to win any seats in the December 16 elections despite its second-place national finish behind the president's preferred Ak-Jol Eldik (Best Path Popular) Party.

Ak-Jol was awarded 71 of 90 parliament seats. The opposition Social Democratic Party (11 seats) and the pro-Bakiev Communist Party (eight seats) were the only other parties to reach parliament.

Ata-Meken supporters have responded to the December 20 announcement by launching fresh hunger strikes and urging supporters to protest what they consider deeply flawed elections, in which they look set to miss out on parliament despite receiving around 8 percent of the vote.

The postelection process also appears to have prompted a rift on the election commission, with at least one member suggesting the results are "fraudulent." Member Akylbek Sariev called the elections "rigged" during a commission meeting on December 20.

Sariev had expressed similar concerns on December 19 to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, and said Chairwoman Klara Kabilova had kept the other members "in the dark" as delays in the flow of data extended to three days. "These actions are the kind of tactics taken from a script," Sariev said, adding that the three-day delay "means that the [authorities] have not had enough time to finish their work, [which is] to falsify the vote results." He added that the Central Election Commission "was supposed to answer all election-related appeals within two days," adding that a failure to respond to those complaints within two days "is also a violation of the law."

Kabilova, for her part, denied allegations of election rigging. She said that any discrepancies were the result of attacks by unidentified Estonian hackers on the commission's website.

The commission's statement on December 20 appeared either to disregard or interpret as a Supreme Court ruling two days earlier that initial reports suggested had thrown out a requirement that excluded any party that failed to win at least 0.5 percent of the vote in any given province or the country's two largest cities, Bishkek and Osh.

The Central Election Commission says that Ata-Meken failed to win any seats because it did not clear a 0.5 percent local barrier in the southern city of Osh. Ata-Meken says it has proof it reached the threshold in Osh.

President Kurmanbek Bakiev praised the elections as clean and fair after the final results were announced, adding that his Ak-Jol party is the first to ascend to power in Kyrgyz history through democratic elections.

Responding to the commission announcement, Ata-Meken said on December 20 that it would mount "large-scale" protests and about 10 of the party's candidates said they would go on hunger strike in Bishkek.

"[Our supporters] demand that we defend their votes, and this is why we are obliged to take these measures," Nurjamal Baibolova, one of the hunger strikers, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "This is the only way to stop the violations of the law which are taking place."

The party charged in a statement that the election commission "is falsifying the voting results in Osh," adding, "We consider these elections to have been conducted dishonestly, with flagrant violations of legislation."

Most of the newly elected deputies received their official mandates on December 20, and the first session of parliament was set to be held the following day, perhaps amid expected protests in the capital and other cities.

Bakiev has said that the new parliament must approve a new government before January 1.

After the last election in 2005, protests around the country helped topple the previous president, Askar Akaev. Bakiev came to power in his place but opposition parties accused him of betraying promises of reform.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report)

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