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Kyrgyzstan Opposition Routed at Polls; Process Faulted

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A17

MOSCOW, March 14 -- Pro-government candidates swept parliamentary elections Sunday in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, according to official returns released Monday. The opposition, which had viewed the vote as a test of its strength in advance of the presidential election this fall, was left with only six seats in the 75-member chamber.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored two rounds of voting, including 41 runoffs Sunday, said there were "significant shortcomings" in the electoral process.

"Some areas of concern remained unchanged from the first round, including lack of effective voter access to diverse sources of information, bias in the media, continued de-registration of candidates on minor grounds, and inaccurate and poorly maintained voter lists," said Lubomir Kopaj, head of the OSCE observers mission. "On the positive side, the right to assembly was more fully respected in the period between the two rounds of elections."

The OSCE also said its monitors observed vote-buying, received multiple allegations of voters being transported to more than one polling station and were unable to observe all aspects of the counting process.

Sulaiman Imanbayev, head of the Kyrgyz Central Elections Commission, said the results were valid and "no serious violations influencing the ballots or the vote count were registered."

Races in four districts have yet to be decided. In two of them a majority of voters rejected all candidates, a choice open to them. Although not all the winning candidates are formally members of pro-government parties, foreign observers said that apparent independents, often rich businessmen, were allied with the government.

A mountainous republic, Kyrgyzstan borders several authoritarian post-Soviet republics, as well as China. Opposition figures charge that President Askar Akayev, who has ruled the country since 1990, shortly before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will now use an overwhelming majority in parliament to amend the constitutional provision preventing him from running again.

Akayev has repeatedly denied that he wants another term. Under another scenario, the constitution would be amended to shift key presidential powers to parliament, where a number of important loyalists and relatives of the president will sit.

Akayev's daughter, Bermet Akayeva, won a second-round runoff Sunday with 53.64 percent of the vote in a district in the capital, Bishkek. Her brother, Aider, won a seat in the first round of elections two weeks ago in his father's home constituency.

Opposition leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who has said he plans to run for president in the election scheduled for October, lost by 20 percentage points in his district, according to official returns.

Members of his party called on the public to refuse to recognize the vote.

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