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Kyrgyz Court Upholds Rejection Of Jailed Opposition Leader's Campaign Signatures

Jailed opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev (file photo)
Jailed opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court has upheld the Central Election Commission's rejection of thousands of signatures collected by supporters seeking to get jailed opposition politician Omurbek Tekebaev on the presidential ballot.

The election commission said on August 31 that the high court ruled a day earlier that almost 39,000 signatures collected by Tekebaev's Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party were invalid.

Prospective candidates for the October 15 election were required to collect at least 30,000 signatures, pay a deposit of 1 million soms ($14,600), and pass a Kyrgyz-language test.

The election commission said that, by law, signature collections must be financed by the candidate's election fund only, and that this was not the case in Tekebaev's campaign.

Ata-Meken took its complaint to the Supreme Court after an appeals court upheld the election commission's decision on August 22.

Tekebaev was arrested in February and was named by Ata-Meken as its candidate for president in March. He was convicted of bribe-taking and sentenced to eight years in prison on August 16.

Tekebaev says he is innocent. He and his party contend that President Almazbek Atambaev's government prosecuted him in order to rein in opponents ahead of the election and keep him off the ballot.

A final list of officially registered presidential candidates will be made public on September 10.

Atambaev, who has been in office since December 2011, is constitutionally barred from running for a second term.

He has made clear that he favors Sooronbai Jeenbekov, an ally who stepped down as prime minister on August 21 to run for president.

On August 30, Atambaev rejected accusations that he has abused his authority in remarks backing Jeenbekov and warned that, before he leaves office in December, he would "severely punish" anyone who plans "disturbances" over the election.

Both Tekebaev and Atambaev were members of an interim government that came to power after protesters ousted authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiev in 2010.

Bakiev's predeccessor, Askar Akaev, had been pushed out by street protests in 2005.