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Kyrgyz Election Update
Russia’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Yevgeny Shmagin, told Interfax on February 9 that Russia would not interfere in any way with the country’s electoral process. One day earlier, however, Valery Loshinin, Russia’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs, said his country opposed “street democracy” and “flower revolutions” – the latter a reference to the Rose Revolution seen in Georgia in November 2003. Both Shmagin and Loshinin stressed Russia’s commitment to free and fair elections in Kyrgyzstan.
AKAEV PROMISES ‘CLEAN’ KYRGYZSTAN
President Askar Akaev has come up with a five-point plan to deliver what he calls a Clean Kyrgyzstan. He unveiled the plan on February 5 to 800 delegates attending the Congress of the Peoples of Kyrgyzstan – a pro-government assembly that is convened occasionally and is used as a sounding-board for policy ideas before they are drafted as laws. The programme promises pretty much what its title says: instilling cleanliness in all walks of life, from running fair elections through rooting out corruption among officials to providing clean drinking water to the public.
OPPOSITION DEMANDS FAIR ELECTIONS
On February 5, a 300-strong crowd gathered near Victory Square in Bishkek to rally for free elections. The demonstration, organised by the Coalition for Fair Elections, attracted a heavy police presence as it was not sanctioned by local authorities. The demonstrators passed a resolution stressing the importance of fair elections and saying Akaev must not run for another term as president in the election expected later this year, as that would contravene the constitution.
Police stepped in to halt an NGO-sponsored meeting at a library in Osh, also on February 5. When organisers tried to relocate the forum – entitled Reasons for the Democracy Deficit in Kyrgyzstan – to a nearby café, law officers ordered that venue to close.
State ombudsman Tursunbay Bakir uulu complained that the electoral rolls that should be posted up at every polling station were sometimes missing, thereby creating a breach of voters’ rights. He told a February 7 press conference that looking after the rights of both voters and candidates was fully within the mandate of the ombudsman’s office.
Central Election Committee head Sulaiman Imanbaev has criticised leaflets found in the southern Batken region that urged voters to wait at polling stations until election officers have finished their work on February 27. He said this suggested that the election might be rigged.
On February 4, interior minister Bakirdin Subanbekov proposed the creation of volunteer “citizen’s guard” units to help maintain order during the elections. The minister said there are not enough officers to police polling stations without extra help from civilians.
The minister also announced that 21 members of the banned Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir had been arrested with leaflets calling for an election boycott.
A project to train parliamentary candidates and their supporters on how to observe elections kicked off on February 8. About 7,000 candidates from 75 electoral districts will be trained in the programme, which is supported by Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan.
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