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Kyrgyz citizens vote in run-off polls

Kyrgyz citizens vote in run-off polls

Voters in Kyrgyzstan cast ballots yesterday for parliamentary runoff elections amid rising tension over whether the Central Asian country's longtime leader might seek to extend his rule beyond constitutional limits.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the first round of voting for the 75-member parliament fell short of international standards, noting instances of vote buying, questionable disqualification of candidates and interference with the media.
"This is the dirtiest elections I've seen," Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, a disqualified opposition candidate who has led protests, said yesterday.
Only two of the 31 seats filled without a runoff contest in the February 27 vote went to opposition candidates. Of the 44 still-open seats, opposition candidates were contesting about a dozen in yesterday's election. Among the pro-government candidates is President Askar Akayev's daughter, Bermet.
About 1.5 million voters are eligible to cast ballots and the OSCE has sent 60 observers to monitor the runoffs.
The opposition leader, Kadyrbekov, also accused the West of turning a blind eye on the alleged election violations, saying that could encourage Akayev to circumvent laws and extend his 15-year rule, which ends in October.
Akayev has repeatedly denied he wants another term. He has been in power since 1990 and is not eligible under the constitution to run after serving two consecutive terms. However, the opposition fears his loyalists are seeking to extend his rule or to hand-pick his successor. A compliant parliament could ease the task, which could require constitutional changes.
Fueling the controversy, presidential aide Abdil Seghizbayev accused the opposition of pushing Akayev toward introducing a referendum to confirm his powers, which he hinted could replace a presidential vote slated for October.
"I want to ask the opposition: do they want their actions to push the president to directly ask the people to confirm his powers for another term?" Seghizbayev said Friday.
Still, Akayev is seen as the most liberal of the veteran leaders in ex-Soviet Central Asia who all have clung to power through dubious legal changes and referendums. His departure in October could create a precedent of democratic transition of power in the region.
Meanwhile, the opposition's efforts have been hampered by a lack of coordination among various parties and groups, a fault former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiyev attempted to remedy last week with the creation of an alliance. Bakiyev will head the new alliance.
Hundreds of people have been rallying since last week in support of a few defeated opposition candidates in several districts of the ethnically mixed and poor south, where public discontent is stronger than in the relatively better-off north.
The protests continued on yesterday, but with fewer people turning out.


Updated : 2021-10-18 00:54 GMT+08:00