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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Kyrgyzstan: Protesters reportedly break into government headquarters

Protesters broke into Kyrgyzstan's government headquarters following clashes with police. Thousands gathered to protest the results of a recent parliamentary election, which was marred by allegations of vote-buying.

By: Deutsche Welle | October 6, 2020 11:05:37 am
At least 4,000 protesters gathered at Bishkek's central square earlier in the day to denounce Sunday's parliamentary elections as fraudulent. (Tabyldy Kadyrbekov/Sputnik/dpa/picture-alliance)

Protesters demonstrating against the results of Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections stormed a building that houses the country’s parliament and presidential offices early on Tuesday, according to local media reports.

Radio Free Europe’s tweeted pictures of protesters inside President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s office, located in a building known as the White House in the capital Bishkek.

The photos showed demonstrators appearing to pose at the president’s desk and in other areas of the office.

Local media also reported that demonstrators freed former President Almazbek Atambayev from a jail cell in the country’s national security committee building. An eye witness told news agency AFP that the demonstrators were able to free Atambayev “without force or use of any weapons.”

The eyewitness, identified as activist Adil Turdukuov, said that national security officials did not attempt to prevent demonstrators from releasing the ex-Kyrgyz leader.

Atambayev had been jailed after falling out with President Jeenbekov and was arrested on corruption charges. They also released imprisoned politician Sadyr Japarov, Radio Free Europe reported.

Clashes with police

Hours before, on Monday evening, around 120 people were hospitalized with injuries after clashes broke out between police and protesters in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city. The protesters were demonstrating against results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, where a majority of the votes went to parties tied to ruling elites.

At least 4,000 protesters gathered at Bishkek’s central square earlier in the day to denounce Sunday’s parliamentary elections as fraudulent. Police moved to break up the rally in the evening, using water cannons, stun grenades and teargas to force the protesters to retreat.

Allegations of misconduct

“We all have witnessed a true lawlessness during the election campaign and the election day yesterday … Pressure on the voters, intimidation of the voters, bribing,” said Klara Sooronkulova, leader of the Reforma opposition party.

As preliminary results poured in, it became clear that only five of 16 parties featured on the ballot had won seats in the country’s 120-seat parliament.

Over 26% of the votes went to the pro-government Birimdik party, while nearly 24% were received by the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, which has links to a former top customs official. Both parties favor closer ties with Russia.

Calls for new elections

Opposition supporters called on President Jeenbekov to step down after over 10 political parties were allegedly pushed out of the legislature with the new elections. Many have raised concerns over vote-buying.

“We have talked with all opposition parties and created an opposition coalition. We’re now forming a coordination council and demand that the Central Election Commission cancel the [results of the elections] within 24 hours,” said Zhanar Akayev, from the Ata Meken opposition party.

“We also demand that the Central Election Commission hold new elections. We have to hold new elections within a month,” he added.

Kyrgyzstan has a history of popular uprisings and political turmoil. Two presidents were ousted in revolutions in 2005 and 2010. A third president was jailed after falling out with Jeenbekov.

After a decade of relative stability, people have raised concerns over rampant corruption and domination by certain powerful clans.

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