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Vote Counting Begins In Osh Local Elections


An Osh resident votes in local elections on March 4.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Polls have closed and vote counting has begun in local elections in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh.

Voters had a choice of nearly 700 candidates from seven political parties to select members of the 45-seat city council.

Saadat Mamatalieva, head of the regional election commission, told RFE/RL that turnout was high and there were a significant number of complaints about alleged violations.

"A total of 92,808 voters have cast ballots," he said. "This is 75.2 percent of all voters in Osh. Local polling stations are now counting the ballots. We haven't received the final protocols yet.

"We have received many complaints about falsifications and we will check them after receiving official protocols."

Osh's controversial mayor, Melis Myrzakmatov, could be forced to resign if his National Unity party fails to win a majority. Normally, the party controlling the council names the city's mayor.

With nearly 80 percent of the votes counted in Osh, preliminary results from the elections commission showed National Unity taking 47 percent of the vote, trailed by the Social Democratic Party with some 24 percent.

Myrzakmatov has long been at odds with the central government in Bishkek, and the parties of President Almazbek Atambaev and Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov have been campaigning heavily for months to defeat Myrzakmatov's well-entrenched political machine.

Home to a significant Uzbek minority, Osh was at the center of clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, in which around 450 people were killed and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.

Myrzakmatov and his National Unity party are widely seen as Kyrgz nationalists and are regarded with fear by the city's ethnic Uzbeks.

Myrzakmatov has strongly backed a rebuilding plan focusing on erecting new high-rise apartments in neighborhoods destroyed during the 2010 violence, most of them in traditionally Uzbek areas.

But observers say that three-quarters of the people moving into the new apartments are not displaced Uzbeks but displaced Kyrgyz instead.