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1 dead, hundreds wounded in Kyrgyz protests

October 6, 2020

Thousands have gathered to protest the results of a recent parliamentary election marred by allegations of vote-buying. Police moved to break up demonstrations using water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas.

Kirgistan Ausschreitungen nach Parlamentswahl
Image: Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters

Protesters demonstrating against the results of parliamentary election have stormed a building that houses the country's parliament and presidential offices, leaving one person dead and at least 590 wounded following clashes with police, the government said. 

Radio Free Europe 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, posted late Monday, showed demonstrators appearing to pose at the president's desk and in other areas of the office.

The protesters were demonstrating against results of Sunday's parliamentary election, 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 the election as fraudulent. Police moved to break up the rally in the evening, using water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas to force the protesters to retreat.

Read more: Sooronbai Jeenbekov set to win presidential election

Hours earlier, around 120 people were hospitalized with injuries after clashes broke out between police and protesters.

Protesters demanded that the vote results be canceled, and the Central Election Commission said early Tuesday it would consider their request, local news website 24.kg reported.

While protesters gathered in several provincial centers, many of Jeenbekov's supporters gathered in the southern city of Osh, where his brother called for unity and order.

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Despite the clashes, Jeenbekov's office issued a statement saying that he was "in control of the situation and expresses confidence that all political forces will put the interests of the country above their own."

Former president freed

Demonstrators also reportedly freed former President Almazbek Atambayev from a jail cell in the country's national security committee building. An eyewitness told news agency Agence France-Presse 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.

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

Allegations of vote 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 were revealed on Sunday, 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.

"We have talked with all opposition parties and created an opposition coalition," said Zhanar Akayev, from the Ata Meken opposition party. "We also demand that the Central Election Commission hold new elections ... within a month."

Russian news agency RIA quoted Jeenbekov's spokeswoman as saying he also did not rule out annulling the results of the contested election. He also said he would meet on Tuesday with the leaders of all parties that had taken part in the election.

Kyrgyzstan has a history of popular uprisings and political turmoil, with two presidents ousted in revolutions in 2005 and 2010. After a decade of relative stability, people have raised concerns over rampant corruption and domination by certain powerful clans.

see/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters)