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Opposition, Western Observers Blast Kyrgyz Vote

Counting votes in Bishkek
BISHKEK -- Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have expressed disappointment over a presidential vote in Kyrgyzstan that it says "fell short of key standards."

Authorities have called the voting a runaway victory for incumbent President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who they say is ahead of his closest rival by nearly 80 percent late in the tally.

"Sadly, this election did not show the progress we were hoping for and it again fell short of key standards Kyrgyzstan has committed to," the OSCE said in its preliminary assessment of the July 23 election.

In its capacity as European Union president, Sweden said in a subsequent statement that Moldova's "election day was marred by many problems and irregularities, including evidence of ballot-box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists and some evidence of multiple voting."

The EU president expressed concerns that the vote "failed to meet key OSCE commitments for democratic elections, including the commitment to maintain a clear separation between the ruling party and the state."

Kyrgyzstan's national election commission has already hinted it is satisfied with the conduct of the vote, although opposition complaints are still pending before the commission and the prosecutor's office.

President Bakiev after voting on July 23
Early results showed Bakiev with some 86 percent of the vote, a figure that would outpace pre-election polls.

RFE/RL correspondents said the situation in Kyrgyzstan was calm as people digested the results of the voting.

Bakiev's chief competitor in the election -- former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev of the Social Democratic Party -- withdrew from the race midway through election day along with an independent candidate, Jenishbek Nazaraliev.

Officials said Atambaev had just 7 percent of the vote in the ongoing tally.

Fatal Flaws?

Atambaev is vowing to mobilize the public to protest the conduct of the campaign and the election, which he says Bakiev stole.

"We are going to ask people to come out with us and hold rallies [on July 23 and 24], if necessary," Atambaev vowed on election day. "And we warn the Central Election Commission that if it legitimizes this election, which was held with so many violations, it will cause even more protests. And I think the arrests of parliament members will [incite] the whole Issyk-Kul region."

Many of the complaints Atambaev made prior to and during the election were supported in the OSCE assessment.

The OSCE said "the conduct of election day was a disappointment."

Police dispersed a protest in Balykchy on election day and detained dozens, including lawmakers Mirbek Asanakunov and Kubanychbek Kadyrov.
The OSCE concluded that "the incumbent gained an unfair advantage over his opponents through the misuse of administrative resources and bias in the media coverage of the campaign." The assessment cited irregularities that included "ballot-box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists, and multiple voting."

Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission confirmed at least one case of ballot-box stuffing.

As reported by local Internet news agency, the results of voting at polling station 197 were invalidated due to "massive casting of ballots...which had taken place prior to the official start of the election."

The OSCE said "the process further deteriorated during the vote count and the tabulation of results, with observers evaluating this part of the process negatively in more than half of observations."

History Of Street Actions

Election day was marred by the arrest of two members of parliament, Mirbek Asanakulov and Kubanychbek Kadyrov. Both belong to Atmabaev's Social Democratic Party in the Issyk-Kul area.

Their arrests sparked a protest of some 1,000 people that was dispersed by police, who fired percussion grenades and tear gas and shot into the air.

Kyrgyzstan has a vibrant civil society that has been the driving force behind numerous street protests in the past, including those protests that chased former President Askar Akaev from power in March 2005 and led, months later, to Bakiev becoming president.

written in Prague by RFE/RL correspondent Bruce Pannier based on reports from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service