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Teachers Accused Of Pressuring Students To Vote For Ruling Party Candidate In Kyrgyzstan

A teacher at a Kyrgyz law academy is being investigation for reportedly warning students that they would be expelled unless they voted for Sooronbai Jeenbekov. (pictured, file photo)

BISHKEK -- Authorities in Kyrgyzstan are investigating allegations that teachers at the state-run Law Academy have pressured students to vote for the ruling party candidate in the October 15 presidential election.

The Prosecutor-General's Office office said on September 26 that an Interior Ministry probe was launched following a complaint by the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, an NGO.

According to the complaint, a teacher at the academy warned students that they would be expelled unless they voted for Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who stepped down as prime minister in August to run for president and is the ruling Social Democratic Party's nominee.

President Almazbek Atambaev, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term, has voiced support for Jeenbekov.

Interior Ministry investigators are looking into whether laws on voting rights and the operations of electoral commissions were violated, the Prosecutor-General's Office said.

A video that circulated on the Internet earlier in September was purportedly filmed during a class at the Law Academy in Bishkek and showed what appeared to be a teacher calling on students to vote for Jeenbekov.

In the video, the teacher warns the students that, if they do not vote for Jeenbekov, they might face the fate of four students she said had been expelled after they voted for the "wrong" candidate in a previous election.

After a student objects to the instruction, saying it violates her rights, the teacher orders her out of the classroom.

Jeenbekov and Omurbek Babanov, a businessman who is also a former prime minister, are seen as the main contenders for the presidency of the Central Asian nation of about 6 million.

A potential challenger, opposition Ata-Meken party leader Omerbek Tekebaev, was convicted of bribe-taking and sentenced to eight years in prison in August after a trial the party contends was engineered to keep him out of the election.

Atambaev has been president of Kyrgyzstan since 2011. Presidents were chased from office by popular protests in the former Soviet republic in 2005 and 2010.