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Thousands rally against Kyrgyz government

Thousands rally against Kyrgyz government

Thousands of Kyrgyz opposition supporters staged nationwide anti-government rallies Friday to push for free and fair elections, with many calling for the president to step down.
Political tensions are on the rise in this impoverished Central Asian nation before an early presidential election in July.
The vote was moved forward to July 23, prompting speculation that the government was hoping this would not give the opposition enough time to mount a viable challenge to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is expected to run for re-election.
Rampant unemployment, electricity shortages and pervasive corruption are deepening discontent in one of the most impoverished former Soviet republics.
Friday's rally in Bishkek, the capital, drew around 1,500 people and ended peacefully. Hundreds more opposition supporters gathered in other cities around the country.
Numerous opposition activists have been detained at public gatherings in recent weeks, while political leaders have been subjected to a wave of criminal investigations that the opposition has described as politically motivated.
"We will stand firm against this criminal regime, which works against the country. We will fight and spare no measures," Omurbek Tekebayev told cheering supporters in Bishkek. He faced an illegal weapons charge earlier this year, which was dropped.
The United People's Movement _ a coalition that unites a disparate group of anti-government political parties _ said it has little hope the election will be held without fraud.
The coalition issued a statement Friday calling for the appointment of opposition members to the election commission, more television coverage of opposition activities and for international election observers to be allowed to operate freely during the election.
Opposition forces have been fragmented in recent years, but they have vowed to unite behind a single presidential candidate in the coming weeks.
"The country has been plunged into darkness. If Bakiyev runs for a second term, Kyrgyzstan will be no more," Kura Usubaliyev, 73, a retiree from the northern Talas region. "By holding these rallies we will show Bakiyev the will of the people."
The opposition plans a series of rallies beginning April 20, Tekebayev said.
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Associated Press writer Leila Saralayeva in Bishkek contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-19 00:06 GMT+08:00