Protests in Kyrgyzstan over alleged vote rigging

USA & World

Protests in Kyrgyzstan over alleged vote rigging

Opposition supporters in Kyrgyzstan are protesting against alleged vote-rigging following early results of Sunday parliamentary elections that show that two pro-government parties have won 107 out of the 120 contested seats.

Approximately 3,000 people rallied in the capital Bishkek’s main square on Monday.

According to preliminary data published by the Central Asian country’s election authority, the Birimdik (Unity) party of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s closest supporters led the count with 24.53 percent of the vote.

Just behind it with 22.2 percent was Mekenim Kyrgyzstan (My Motherland Kyrgyzstan), whose ticket includes former coalition members and ex-opposition MPs, and which has avoided positioning itself as either allied with or opposed to the president.

“There is a lot of anger about yesterday’s parliamentary election,” said Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the capital Bishkek.

“This comes after days of allegations and strong evidence of vote-buying,” he said, adding that opposition leaders are calling for the protest to continue until the final results are announced.

A man casts a ballot at home during the parliamentary election in the village of Arashan, Kyrgyzstan [Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters]Just four out of the 16 parties contesting the elections appeared to have crossed the 7-percent barrier for election – the two others being Kyrgyzstan and Butun Kyrgyzstan.

The Central Election Commission said turnout was 55 percent.

Potential rivalries

“There are questions over whether rivalries in pro-government parties may start to appear, which may add a new dimension to these protests and potential greater political instability,” Stratford added.

While Birimdik’s ticket includes Jeenbekov’s brother Asylbek, Mekenim Kyrgyzstan has drawn attention by including on its list Iskender Matraimov, who, according to observers, represents another powerful local clan.

“The main conflict in this election is between the Jeenbekov and Matraimov clans, which is played out through the competition of the parties they are backing,” Central Asia-focused analyst Alexander Knyazev told AFP news agency.

While the clans have avoided public confrontation, there was a risk of greater tension if Mekenim Kyrgyzstan supporters viewed the election results as too skewed in favour of the president’s allies, he said.

The country of 6.5 million people has a history of political turmoil. In the past 15 years, two presidents have been toppled by revolts and a third is in prison after falling out with his successor.