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Protests following elections in Kyrgyzstan Protests following elections in Kyrgyzstan  (AFP or licensors)

Kyrgyzstan Annuls Election After Deadly Protests

Officials in the former Soviet nation of Kyrgyzstan say they have annulled the results of Sunday's parliamentary elections after violent protests in the capital Bishkek in which one person died. President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said he was ready to meet the opposition and allies after protesters broke into the complex housing the parliament en presidential quarters amid allegations of voting fraud.

By Stefan J. Bos

An angry crowd rushed into the offices of President  Jeenbekov, where they smashed official portraits and showered official documents from the windows.

Parts of the complex appeared to be on fire.

Besides parliament and the presidential offices, protesters also stormed other government buildings, releasing several high-profile prisoners.  Among those freed was former President Almazbek Atambayev, who preceded Jeenbekov. Atambayev is serving a sentence after being convicted on corruption charges.

The violence broke out following massive protests demanding the president's resignation following Sunday's parliamentary election. Police used stun grenades, tear gas, and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

The Health Ministry said one person died, and hundreds of people were injured in the riots. Thousands of demonstrators gathered after authorities announced that only four political parties out of 16 passed the 120 seat parliament's entry threshold.

PRESIDENTIAL ALLIES

Nearly all of the victorious parties have close ties to pro-Russian President Jeenbekov. On Monday, all 12 opposition groups jointly declared they would not recognize the results of the vote.

The 61-year-old president has described his opponents as the "political forces" trying to seize power illegally. However, he also stressed that he wanted the Central Election Commission to investigate violations thoroughly and, if necessary, annul the election results.

President Jeenbekov said he had "so far... taken all the possible measures to prevent an escalation of the situation". And he urged opposition parties to "calm their supporters down and take them away from areas of mass gathering."

For now, it remained unclear whether Tuesday's announcement of the annulment of the vote would be enough to restore calm. Previous uprisings amid discontent over poverty and ethnic tensions swept the nation's first post-Soviet presidents from power in 2005 and 2010.

Despite the turmoil, international observers say Kyrgyzstan's elections appeared more competitive than its more autocratic neighbors. But Europe's security organization OSCE has said that vote-buying and pressure on voters remains a concern in the country.

EX-SOVIET STATE

As the second smallest of five Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan was long known as the Kara-Kirgiz Autonomous Region while being part of the Russia-dominated Soviet Union.

It acquired its present name after declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

However, its relative young democracy still faces significant challenges. In 2014 Kyrgyzstan shut a US military base, which had supplied American troops in Afghanistan with personnel and cargo since 2001.

Russia retains a military airbase in the mainly Muslim nation of six million people.

06 October 2020, 15:44