Kyrgyzstan begins vote as oppn. protests

Voters in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan took to the polls on Sunday for a parliamentary election that the authorities say will bring much-needed stability, but which the opposition has already criticised.

Kyrgyzstan begins vote as oppn. protests
Twelve political parties were taking part in the race for the 90 seats in the parliament, with President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's newly-created Ak-Zhol party the firm favourite to win the vote.

The early elections were called by Bakiyev as this impoverished former Soviet republic located on China's western edge continues to experience aftershocks from a 2005 popular uprising.

Opposition forces have denounced pressure from the authorities, including a vote ban on an opposition leader over an apparent breach of electoral law and a lawsuit launched against one of the main opposition parties.

The top candidate of the opposition Social Democratic party, Omurbek Babanov, found his name had been removed from ballot papers overnight, after a court ruled he was Kazakh and his Kyrgyz passport was invalid, a party spokeswoman said.

Several opposition activists have also been beaten during the campaign.

Sunday's vote was necessitated by constitutional changes approved in October that were supposed to ease relations between Bakiyev and his detractors in parliament by increasing the powers of the legislature.

While this mountainous state lies far from the rich world, major powers have an interest in the country's course as Kyrgyzstan is a vital link in a wider struggle for influence in mainly Muslim, resource-rich Central Asia.

The United States set up an airbase here to support US operations in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, while Russia opened its own base in 2003.

The new constitution approved by Bakiyev in October was seen as making concessions to parliament but opponents accuse him of trying to claw back power by introducing restrictive changes on conditions for entering parliament.

An outspoken opposition leader, Emil Baisalov, has also been barred from standing and faces prosecution for publishing a photograph of a ballot paper on the Internet.

He says he wanted to demonstrate that ballots could easily be faked.

On Wednesday, the main candidate from the ASABA opposition party, Zhenishbek Nazaraliyev, announced he was boycotting the vote, saying: "These elections are going to be falsified 100 percent."

The independent Association of Political Analysts warned on Tuesday that any rigging of the polls could lead to a renewed bout of public discontent and instability.

"If the opposition is not represented in parliament, every single mistake of the authorities... will lead to radicalisation and conflict in society," the association said in a report.

The 2005 uprising saw the ouster of the country's first post-Soviet leader Akayev by angry mobs who took over the presidential palace.

There then followed months of street protests and the assassinations of three members of parliament.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Aralık 2007, 17:41
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