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Babanov Campaign Accuses Kyrgyz Election Officials Of Backing Ruling Party Candidate


Omurbek Babanov

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov's campaign team has accused election officials of obstructing his campaign and backing the candidate favored by outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev.

The allegations came hours before the Central Election Commission (BSK) issued a warning to Babanov about an alleged campaign violation, which could lead to an attempt to bar him from the ballot in the October 15 vote.

"We believe that the BSK is working exclusively for only one candidate who is the main opponent of Omurbek Babanov," Babanov's spokesman, Mirsuljan Namazaliev, told reporters in Bishkek on October 10.

Namazaliev also accused the Kyrgyz authorities of intimidating Babanov's supporters and openly using the levers of power in support of ruling Social Democratic Party candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who is Atambaev's former prime minister.

Namazaliev asserted that the "bias of the electoral commission has been proven by those warnings that the BSK has given Babanov," referring to what it said were two notifications of alleged campaign violations.

Speaking ahead of a BSK meeting, he said that the commission was about to issue a third warning based on alleged complaints from voters and that the warnings amounted to "attempts by the authorities to prevent Babanov from running for office."

Under Kyrgyz law, a candidate can be disqualified after three warnings -- but disqualification is not possible later than five days before the election.

Later on October 10, the BSK met and issued a third warning to Babanov, based on claims from citizens who said recent remarks he made to ethnic Uzbek voters in southern Kyrgyzstan risked inciting ethnic discord.

But the commission made no immediate attempt to bar Babanov from the election.

Atambaev, who is barred from seeking a second term by the constitution, has openly supported Jeenbekov and publicly accusing Babanov of putting his business interests above Kyrgyzstan's statehood.

Jeenbekov and Babanov, who is also a former prime minister, are seen as the front-runners in a field of 12 candidates.

Two previous presidents were driven from office by popular protests in the former Soviet republic in 2005 and 2010.

The European Union and rights organizations have urged Kyrgyzstan to hold the election in an open, inclusive, and democratic manner.

Government critics say the campaign has been marred by a criminal conviction handed down to opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party leader Omurbek Tekebaev in August after a trial his backers say was politically motivated.

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