President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has won a second term with a landslide victory, however, opponents and independent observers alike have slammed the result saying that it was rigged and that the election failed to meet expected standards.
REUTERS - Kyrgyzstan's president won a second term by an overwhelming margin on Friday, but opponents and Western observers harshly criticised the election in the Central Asian country, a focus of U.S.-Russian rivalry.
Washington and Moscow have military air bases in the country, which lies in the vast, conflict-prone region north of Iran and Afghanistan. Both have expressed concern about what they see as a rise in Islamic militancy in the region.
The central election commission said President Kurmanbek Bakiyev had won 86.2 percent of Thursday's vote, with two-thirds of ballots counted. Opposition challenger Almazbek Atambayev, who has denounced the contest in the former Soviet republic as rigged, had 7.4 percent.
"Bakiyev lost this election. Kyrgyzstan has no legitimate president. He could have easily been given 190 percent," Atambayev told Reuters after the count was announced.
Observers from the election monitoring arm of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement they were "disappointed" with the poll and it failed to meet their standards.
The vote was "marred by many problems and irregularities including ballot box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists, and multiple voting," the statement said.
An impoverished nation of mountain villages, clan rivalries and strong nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan appeared calm after a day of tension but the opposition said it planned more protests.
Kyrgyzstan's stability is essential to regional powers seeking to insulate Central Asia against the spread of militant Islamism from Afghanistan.
Police fired in the air and used batons to break up a crowd of protesters during the Thursday vote. Bakiyev, accused by opponents of exaggerating the Islamist threat to shore up his own power, has vowed to use all means to preserve stability.
Atambayev said his observers had documented widespread cases of people submitting multiple ballots, adding that a number of his monitors had been harassed at polling stations.
The central election commission played down these concerns, saying it was satisfied with the conduct of the election. "The
election was conducted in a calm and friendly atmosphere," said commision chairman Damir Lisovsky.
On Friday, state television showed lengthy live reports of Lisovsky's team debating in detail a 84-page report on election fraud submitted by the opposition. The general prosecutor's office is also due to look into them for a legal review.
Kyrgyzstan's southern Ferghana valley, viewed by the government as a hotbed of extremism, has seen a string of gunbattles over past months between state troops and attackers identified by the government as Islamist rebels.
Some analysts say Taliban rebels of Central Asian origin, stirred by heavy fighting and more U.S. troops in Afghanistan,
are using Kyrgyzstan as a safe haven because of its remote alpine passes and lax security.
Instability in Kyrgyzstan is of concern to the United States, which uses its Manas air base there as a transit point for its troops fighting in Afghanistan.
"Overall, a Bakiyev victory would signal policy continuity," Eurasia Group said in a research note.
"But in the longer term, the level of macro-level political risk is relatively high in Kyrgyzstan. The country's political institutions are weak, corruption is endemic, and organized crime permeates the top levels of government."
Bakiyev came to power in 2005 after mass protests ousted his predecessor, Askar Akayev, following a disputed election. He charmed the West with promises of democracy and was elected that year in a vote declared largely free and fair by the OSCE.
Since then he has gradually tightened his grip on power and is now accused by the opposition of tolerating no dissent.
Bakiyev has rejected opposition allegations, saying he would work hard to promote democracy and reform.
Date created : 2009-07-24