Kyrgyzstan: Opposition decries mass irregularities in parliamentary elections

BISHKEK — Kyrgyz opposition parties have announced that they will not recognize the official results of the October 4 parliamentary elections, after preliminary figures showed that four parties — three of them with close ties to the government — are set to gain seats in the 120-member Jogorku Kenesh (Supreme Council), RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

Shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, opposition supporters gathered for peaceful rallies in the capital, Bishkek, and the northwestern city of Talas to protest what they described as widespread irregularities in the vote. Protesters later dispersed, but opposition leaders said more rallies will take place on October 5.

Out of the 16 parties in the race, pro-government Birimdik, Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, and the Kyrgyzstan parties, as well as the opposition Butun Kyrgyzstan party, have surpassed the 7-percent threshold to enter the parliament. The final results are expected on October 5.

Opposition Ata-Meken party leaders called the vote “the dirtiest elections” in the country’s history. The party officials said they have recorded mass irregularities in all polling stations across the country.

They said the party was to submit their findings and demand the election authorities to annul vote-count results in some districts of the southern Osh Province.

Opposition monitors said that 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 apparent 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 station in Osh have been controlled by “members of criminal groups.”

Supporters of Reforma and Social Democrat parties gathered in Bishkek for several hours in the evening on October 4, for what they called a peaceful protest. Opposition Respublika party supporters staged a protest rally in Talas.

By noon, the Central Election Commission (CEC) received 21 complaints, mainly about voters being ferried in buses to polling stations, people escorting voters into polling stations, and watching them casting their ballots.

The CEC said it is investigating complaints that members of criminal groups are putting pressure on voters.

“Criminals are putting pressure on our citizens; the state does not allow violation of citizens’ rights. The complaints are being investigated,” Tynchtykbek Shainazarov, a member of the CEC, told RFE/RL at a news conference in Bishkek.

Shainazarov was speaking after Ata-Meken candidate Janarbek Akaev complained about violations during the vote, including the appearance of athletic-looking men in villages where they were pressuring voters.

Kyrgyzstan’s electoral laws stipulate that no single party can take more than 65 seats in the legislature, a departure from a trend in Central Asia where ruling parties dominate rubberstamp parliaments.

RFE/RL correspondents reported that in some areas, people waiting outside the polling stations on October 4 were marking what appeared to be lists of names and handing envelopes to voters.

In Talas, an RFE/RL correspondent reported that a woman in the voters’ queue hit her camera and demanded that she stop filming.

In Osh, two journalists from the independent news outlet, reported that athletic-looking men attacked them, beat their cameraman, and took their phones, while police officers there ignored the incident until they were urged to intervene.

Smaller parties have accused Birimdik, widely considered loyal to President Sooronbai 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 are among the party’s candidates.

Mekenim Kyrgyzstan is closely associated to the wealthy and influential Matraimov family.

The clan’s figurehead, Raiymbek Matraimov, a former top customs official, was the target of large protests in November and December last year, with demonstrators demanding a probe into allegations of corruption and massive outflows of cash from the country.

Some of the new parties in Kyrgyzstan are, according to professor and columnist Asel Doolotkeldieva, only a cover for “long-standing, informal elite political and economic networks.”

Election officials said that almost 54 percent of the 3.5 million registered Kyrgyz voters cast their ballots in 2,475 polling stations, including 45 abroad.

The election was monitored by more than 270 observers from 43 countries and 33 international organizations.