OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- A controversial politician in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh has vowed to contest his defeat in a mayoral election.
Melis Myrzakmatov has claimed vote-rigging in the January 15 election, in which city lawmakers voted 25-19 to elect pro-presidential candidate Aitmamat Kadyrbaev.
"These elections were held completely unfairly, completely unlawfully, in a way that anyone would despise," Myrzakmatov said.
He added that "those who cheated the nation are those who cheated your hopes. That will never bring good results. It will never bring anything good. Those in power -- those in the central power structures -- should have remembered that."
The minority coalition that backed Myrzakmatov in the race holds 22 seats, meaning at least three lawmakers may have crossed sides to ensure Kadyrbaev's win. Council members representing Myrzakmatov's Uluttar Birimdigi (Nationalities' Unity) faction announced that they were quitting in protest.
Parliamentary deputy Omurbek Tekebaev, the head of the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, told RFE/RL that the vote was held legally and without any flaws.
Deputy Chynybai Tursunbekov, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, was critical of Myrzakmatov in comments to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service in January 15.
"The mayor [of Osh] should work together with Kyrgyzstan's other governmental bodies and must be far from separatist ideas," he said. "With his actions and his speeches, Myrzakmatov clearly presented himself as a separatist, to some extent as a regionalist leader."
Legislation approved by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev in December called for the mayors of Osh and Bishkek to be elected in secret ballots by the local municipal councils of both cities.
An RFE/RL correspondent on the scene said up to 10,000 supporters of Myrzakmatov, including at least 80 men on horseback, tried to storm the regional administration building in Osh, protesting the election results.
Three police officers were injured after being hit by stones, while one officer was reportedly beaten by the crowd.
The former chief of the Osh regional police, Abdulla Kapparov, brought a portrait of Atambaev to the central square and publicly burned it.
Protesters left the square after Myrzakmatov called on his supporters to disperse, saying that the "real political struggle will take place in 15 days after the cold weather is over."
Myrzakmatov was the only top official in Kyrgyzstan with ties to former President Kurmanbek Bakiev who had remained in his post after Bakiev's ouster by violent protests in 2010.
Kyrgyzstan's government had long sought to remove Myrzakmatov, whose critics accuse him of doing too little to prevent the deadly clashes in 2010 between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in Osh, in which more than 400 people were killed and thousands displaced.
Myrzakmatov was fired in early December in a decree issued by Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev after participating in antigovernment protests.
The central government in Bishkek is seen as eager to replace Myrzakmatov ahead of critical parliamentary elections next year.
A second mayoral vote was also held on January 15 in Bishkek, where pro-presidential candidate Kubanychbek Kulmatov ran unopposed. The vote was called after former Bishkek Mayor Isa Omurkulov tendered his resignation.