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Assault On Kyrgyz Opposition Leader Adds Fuel To Complaints About Election Results


Omurbek Tekebaev is seen shortly after the attack, with visible injuries on his face.

“It was a political attack,” longtime Kyrgyz opposition leader Omurbek Tekebaev told journalists in Bishkek after being assaulted. “The start of political terror.”

Tekebaev was speaking just minutes after he was surrounded outside the Park Hotel in Bishkek on December 1 by a group of young men who hurled abuse and threw some punches at him.

With visible signs of having been struck in the face, Tekebaev said he was going to meet with other opposition leaders at the hotel when he was suddenly confronted by the group, which he says yelled at him for challenging the results of the November 28 parliamentary elections.

Tekebaev and other opposition parties suspect fraud took place during a "blackout" of the Central Election Committee's website tabulating the votes.

With some 70 percent of the vote counted by voting machines late on November 28, Tekebaev’s Ata-Meken party had 6.17 percent of the votes, surpassing the 5 percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament.

After a glitch in the Central Election Commission’s (BShK) website caused screens to go blank for about 40 minutes, the vote tally reappeared with 90 percent of the vote counted and Tekebaev’s party well short of the votes necessary to hold seats in parliament.

Three other parties also saw their chances to enter parliament similarly disappear.

Voting Machine Malfunctions, Record Low Turnout In Kyrgyz Parliamentary Elections
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Since then, Tekebaev has been one of the most vocal politicians in criticizing the BShK, accusing authorities of cheating his party and others out of parliamentary seats.

Tekebaev described the attack on him to reporters afterward and said his phone and eyeglasses had been stolen.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, a rival of Tekebaev, spoke with the opposition leader and ordered the Interior Ministry to find and arrest the people who assaulted him.

Edil Baisalov, the deputy chairman of the cabinet of ministers, called for an investigation into the circumstances around the attack, adding, “There is no room in Kyrgyzstan for political violence.”

A voter casts his ballot during Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary elections in the village of Gornaya-Mayevka outside Bishkek on November 28.
A voter casts his ballot during Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary elections in the village of Gornaya-Mayevka outside Bishkek on November 28.

A suspect was detained later the same day in possession of Tekebaev’s phone and charged with robbery.

While it seems doubtful that Japarov or top government officials would have ordered the attack, the fact that there is only one suspect thus far -- who has only been charged with robbery -- suggests that the police are not taking the incident seriously.

There were several accounts that claimed two buses with dozens of young men arrived near the site of a protest being held outside the BShK building, shortly before Tekebaev was due to meet with other opposition leaders to discuss their next moves in challenging the election results.

Videos show Tekebaev scuffling with a group of young men and at least one person trying to hit him.

Tekebaev said police were nearby but did nothing to intervene.

Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of the State Committee for National Security and a longtime friend of President Sadyr Japarov, was dismissive of the attack.
Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of the State Committee for National Security and a longtime friend of President Sadyr Japarov, was dismissive of the attack.

Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of the State Committee for National Security (UKMK), a longtime friend of Japarov, and someone who likes to project a “tough guy” image, was dismissive of the incident, saying it was not an attack on Tekebaev, "they just struck him."

Tashiev did not elaborate on what exactly he thinks constitutes an attack.

But his remarks could be interpreted as a lack of interest on the part of authorities in investigating, for example, who organized the buses that ferried the men to the venue for Tekebaev’s meeting or who else besides the man in custody surrounded Tekebaev outside a hotel that is only some 100 meters from the government building in downtown Bishkek.

The suspect has been tentatively identified as 23-year-old Ybysh Eshpaev, who is reportedly from a village near the town of Tokmak.

The website 24.kg spoke with Tokmak city council member Cholpon Sydykova, who said Eshpaev was Tokmak Mayor Urmat Samaev's chauffeur.

Samaev confirmed to kaktus.media that he knows the suspect but added that “70 to 80 percent of [the people in] Tokmak” know Eshpaev. He denied that Eshpaev is his chauffeur.

The attack on Tekebaev was precisely the sort of incident Kyrgyzstan does not need as the tabulation of the hand-counted votes continues.

With roughly two-thirds of the recount posted, the results seem to approximately jibe with the earlier machine count that the opposition is protesting.

That is unlikely to sit well with them as they accuse the government and the BShK of rigging the vote count.

The results of the failed parliamentary elections of October 2020 led to the ouster of Kyrgyzstan’s government and president.

The repeat of those elections just over a year later was, according to Japarov, supposed to show the world that the country could conduct clean elections without any controversy.

In comments to RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva said the attack on Tekebaev was a “blow to the president’s reputation” and added this would be the “big news” the world would see from Kyrgyzstan.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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