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Rumblings Heard After Kyrgyzstan's Election

Friends and relatives of people killed during the April uprising that drove the former president from power rally against the policies of the Ata-Jurt party in Bishkek.
Campaigning for Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary elections went smoothly, as did voting on election day, but problems have emerged in the days following the announcement of the preliminary results.

The results of the October 10 election are the primary problem. One party feels it was cheated out of the very few votes it needed to win seats, while a different segment of the population is protesting against the party that surprisingly received the most votes.

While those groups are protesting, the five parties that received enough votes for parliamentary representation are engaged in negotiations to form a coalition that would have to bring together at least three of the five parties. Three of those parties appear to be closing in on an agreement, while the other two appear to be forming an opposition but have hopes for something more.

Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan), according to the preliminary results, received 4.84 percent of the possible vote, just shy of the 5 percent needed to get seats. Party supporters are holding protests in several southern towns demanding a recount of votes in the hope that the remaining 0.16 percentage points could be added, allowing the party to win places in the 120-seat parliament.

The party's leadership is arguing that the Central Election Commission at first calculated that 5 percent would be equivalent to 142,500 votes, a number the party claims it received.

Contentious Numbers

But commission Chairman Adyl Sariev said more voters were eligible to participate in the election than anticipated based on previous estimates, and that the number of votes now needed to pass the 5 percent barrier was 150,000.

"I have already said that we have an 'additional list' [of voters]. There are people going out of the country, or those who were coming back. And when you count all lists, then you have about 3 million voters," Sariev noted. "There is no doubt about this."

United Kyrgyzstan leader Adakhan Madumarov, a former Security Council secretary, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service he doubted the eligible-voter figures were possible in the country of 5.4 million people.

"You all see and understand what is happening. How it is possible that in Kyrgyzstan, in two hours, 200,000 new voters have emerged? How it is possible that we have 3,004,000 people over 18 years old [eligible to vote]? It is completely absurd," Madumarov said. "If more than a half-million people are in Russia, in Kazakhstan, if 165,000 people left Kyrgyzstan after the Osh events, if more than 250,000 people already have Russian citizenship, how can our voters be more than 3 million?"

United Kyrgyzstan supporters today held demonstrations in cities in the southern Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Batken provinces, demanding a recount of the vote. Some of United Kyrgyzstan's supporters marched on the television station in Osh demanding airtime to speak about their party's grievances.

Some of the party's supporters have vowed to block the Bishkek-Osh highway, which would severely cut communications between the northern and southern parts of the country. Madumarov said he was traveling to the south today to join protesters there.

Opposing Ata-Jurt In Opposition

In the capital, Bishkek, a different protest was taking place. A group called Meken-Sheiytter (Homeland's Martyrs), comprising mainly relatives and friends of people killed during the April violence that eventually led to the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiev, was venting anger that the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party, led by former Bakiev officials, won the most seats in the elections.

One of the protesters, Kymbat Almazbekova, said Ata-Jurt had bought its way into parliament, buying "dirty places for dirty money."

Despite Ata-Jurt's victory at the polls, the party seems destined to be the opposition in parliament. There were reports the party with the second-highest vote count, the Social Democratic Party, is in talks with the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) Socialist Party and Respublika about forming a coalition government.

The leadership of the Social Democratic and Ata-Meken parties were among the architects of the new constitution that created a parliamentary system of government in Kyrgyzstan. Respublika, a new party formed at the end of June, mainly comprises businessmen and seems amenable to the idea of a coalition with the other two parties.

But Ata-Jurt and Ar-Namys (Dignity) are backing United Kyrgyzstan's calls for a recount, sensing the addition of a sixth party to parliament could give them enough seats to form a coalition to head the government. Ata-Jurt and Ar-Namys have expressed doubt that the parliamentary system of government -- which debuts following constitutional changes upon the naming of a cabinet -- is the best system for Kyrgyzstan at this time.

Not only would a government led by this coalition probably mean the end of the parliamentary system but one of Ata-Jurt's leaders, Akhmatbek Keldibekov, said today that "once parliament is formed we will raise the issue of the withdrawal of the U.S. military base from the territory of Kyrgyzstan."

Since late 2001, the United States has been allowed to use part of the Manas Airport outside Bishkek for transporting nonlethal cargo and troops to Afghanistan. U.S. officials have said some 35,000 U.S. servicemen pass through Manas every month and the "transit center" at Manas has become more important as security along routes leading from Pakistan to Afghanistan has deteriorated.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report