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Kyrgyz Runner-Up Rejects Election Results, Turns To Moscow

Opposition presidential candidate Almazbek Atambaev has gone to Moscow to tell Russia's leaders "the truth" about what's happening in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission has announced the final results of July 23 elections, officially confirming that Kurmanbek Bakiev has been reelected to a second term in office with more than 76 percent of the vote.

Bakiev's main challenger, Almazbek Atambaev, was second with about 8.4 percent.

The opposition, however, has refused to accept the official results, and is accusing the authorities of election fraud, particularly multiple voting.

Atambaev has announced that his supporters will stage nationwide protests on July 29. In the meantime, he left for Russia to seek support in his stand-off with the authorities.

In an interview to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on July 25, Atambaev claimed that a number of Russian legislators, including Konstantin Zatulin, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma's committee for the CIS, had invited him to explain the situation following the election in Kyrgyzstan.

Atambaev said that he would go before Russia parliament and "tell them all the truth. I want to tell them that if the Russian leadership gets involved in these dirty games, it would tarnish their reputation."

He further expressed his "deep respect" for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "That's why they have to know the real state of affairs here."

Despite Atambaev's trip to Moscow, experts in Kyrgyzstan believe that Moscow will not question Bakiev's reelection.

Bakiev has recently enjoyed improved relations with Russia. Earlier this month he announced that talks were under way with Russia for a joint counterterrorism training facility to be set up in Kyrgyzstan. In February, Russia agreed to provide Bishkek with about $2 billion in loans and investment projects.

Opposition Expectations

In Kyrgyzstan, observers also question whether the opposition would be able to gather supporters in such numbers as to force a repeat vote.

Kyrgyzstan has a recent history of nationwide political demonstrations capable of changing the country's political scene. Bakiev himself came to power following antigovernment demonstrations -- dubbed the "People's" or the "Tulip" revolution -- that ousted his predecessor, Askar Akaev.

But expectations for such a scenario are low this time around.

Mars Sariev, a Bishkek-based political analyst, notes that even within the opposition itself, opinion is divided on whether to take to the streets, but that Atambaev must meet expectations.

"Logically, the opposition should not remain silent because the voters who counted on Atambaev would be seriously disappointed, they would feel let down," Sariev says. "That's why Atambaev -- whether he wants to or not -- has to lead people to demonstrations. If he doesn't do that, he would be effectively nothing in the political scene."

At least 14 opposition supporters remain in detention after being arrested on election day in the town of Balykchy in the northeastern Issyk-Kul region. Police have arrested a total of 20 opposition activists, including two parliament deputies in the Issyk-Kul and Chui regions.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.