Kyrgyz security forces have used rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades against thousands of people gathered in the center of the capital, Bishkek, to protest against the results of parliamentary elections over the weekend that handed victories to parties close to pro-Russian President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.
Activists and supporters from 10 parties -- Ata-Meken (Fatherland), Respublika (Republic), Zamandash (Contemporary), the Social Democrats, Chon Kazat (Big Crusade), Meken Yntymagy (Homeland Unity), Bir Bol (Stay United), Yiman Nuru (Ray of the Faith), Ordo (The Horde), and Reforma (Reform) -- gathered in Ala-Too square on October 5, where they alleged the vote from the previous day was rigged, with votes being bought and other irregularities marring the polls.
Riot police used force to disperse the crowd after some demonstrators tried to break into government headquarters.
Clashes are ongoing near the Government House with sporadic shootings as protesters are trying to go back to the square.
Bishkek hospitals reported that they treated more than 120 patients who sustained injures during the violence.
Those injured included 40 "representatives of law enforcement," according to the Health Ministry.
Janarbek Akaev, leader of Ata-Meken, was also brought to hospital with a leg injury.
Live Feed Of Bishkek Protests (RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, natural sound)
Several people were injured, including at least two police officers and Janarbek Akaev, the leader of Ata-Meken, who was taken to hospital with leg injuries.
Akaev and the leader of Respublika, Mirlan Jeenchoroev, announced at the rally that leaders of 12 parties had signed a petition requesting that the Central Election Commission annul the official results of the votes by midnight.
According to the two politicians, the leaders of two parties, Mekenchil (Patriot) and Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan), which won seats in the elections, are signatories to the petition.
The commission said the final results would be announced in 20 days.
The presidential press service released a statement saying that President Jeenbekov planned to meet on October 6 with the leaders of all 16 political parties that participated in the parliamentary elections.
Akaev and Jeenchoroev, announced at the rally that leaders of 12 parties had signed a petition requesting that the Central Election Commission annul the officials results of the votes by midnight.
According to the two politicians, leaders of two parties, Mekenchil (Patriot) and Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan), which were cited among the winners in the elections, are signatories to the petition.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appeared to back the opposition claims, saying on October 5 that the Kyrgyz elections were tarnished by "credible allegations of vote-buying."
The protesters chanted "President Jeenbekov, must go away!" as opposition leaders pledged to establish a joint opposition coordination center.
Protests against the results broke out in other towns and cities, including the northern city of Talas and the central region of Naryn, as well as in the capital.
A group of military and law enforcement officials announced that they will call on police and other security structures not to conduct measures against people.
Similar protests were held in the northern city of Talas and the central region of Naryn.
According to the OSCE, the elections were "generally well run and candidates could campaign freely, but credible allegations of vote-buying remain a serious concern."
The OSCE "acknowledges that vote-buying is a serious issue in this country," the head of the OSCE observer mission, Thomas Boserup, told a televised press conference, without providing specific examples.
The OSCE also noted that a lack of transparency in campaign financing and a "ban on some forms of donation disadvantaged parties with greater funding constraints."
Near-complete preliminary results early on October 5 showed four parties clearing the 7 percent threshold needed to enter the 120-member Jogorku Kenesh, or Supreme Council.
The pro-government Birimdik (Unity), a newly formed party, won 24.5 percent of the vote, followed by Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Homeland Kyrgyzstan) at 23.88 percent, and Kyrgyzstan at 8.76 percent.
The three parties are broadly considered pro-government or of having an interest in maintaining the status quo. Both Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan have supported deeper integration with the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and closer security ties with Russia.
Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan was alone among opposition parties in overcoming the threshold with 7.13 percent of the vote. The remaining 12 parties in the race failed to receive the required number of votes.
The turnout in the election was 56.5 percent.
Smaller parties have accused Birimdik, widely considered to be loyal to Jeenbekov, of using administrative resources to promote its candidates, an allegation the party denies.
The president’s brother, Asylbek Jeenbekov, and several high-ranking members of the current parliament were among the party’s candidates.
Mekenim Kyrgyzstan is closely associated with the wealthy and influential Matraimov family.
The clan’s figurehead, Raimbek Matraimov, a former top customs official, was the target of large protests in November and December 2019, with demonstrators demanding a probe into allegations of corruption and massive outflows of cash from the country.
Opposition Ata-Meken party leaders called the vote "the dirtiest elections" in the country's history. The party officials said they recorded mass irregularities in all polling stations across the country.
Opposition monitors also said they noticed minibuses transporting the same groups of people to several polling stations to cast ballots. In some areas, they have reportedly seen people holding lists of candidates to give to voters.
Reforma party leader Klara Sooronkulova said that she was attacked by an unknown man at a polling station in Osh.
"There were no signs of the government, state, or police there," Sooronkulova said, adding that all polling stations in Osh were controlled by "members of criminal groups."
Since the early 1990s, Kyrgyzstan has been called an "island of democracy" in Central Asia.
Criticism of Jeenbekov and the Kyrgyz government was heard frequently on the campaign trail and in the many televised debates held on a range of topics, with pro-government and opposition candidates taking part.
The election was seen a test of the country's close ties with Russia, with the Birimdik party, most closely associated with Jeenbekov, touting ties with Russia as part of its campaign pitch.
Kyrgyzstan's leadership has been reinforcing its relationship with Russia in recent years under the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the post-Soviet military alliance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Jeenbekov met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi just days before the elections, where he denounced opposition movements opposing the close ties as infringing on Kyrgyzstan's independence.
The election came as Kyrgyz authorities warn of a rise in COVID-19 infections, with some regions reimposing restrictions on people’s movements.
Political parties mostly defied warnings by health authorities and held large gatherings with supporters.