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Kyrgyzstan rolls back to authoritarian rule?

Polling stations have closed in Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary election. Twelve parties have competed for 90 seats with many expecting the ruling 'Ak Zhol' group to win a majority. It's the first time the country has voted on a new parliament since the 2005 T

Meanwhile, accusations of corruption and malpractice have marred the ballot.

By the end of the day official figures showed more than a 60 per cent turnout.

“I must say it is a historic day today. Much will depend on the position of our society, but regardless of the election result the new parliament will be more modern and effective. There will be moiré women, more young people and more people of other nationalities. So I urge every body to fulfill their civic duty,” Kurmanbek Bakiyev said.

There was hardly a state of election fever in the capital Bishkek. Billboards proclaiming the main parties are scarce, posters lie tattered from lampposts and there are few signs of tension or even interest from the public, because almost everybody there seems to believe that one party has it all sewn up.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Kurmanbek Bakiyev

Taking a leaf out of Russia’s book, a recent change to the Constitution means that voters must now cast ballots for parties rather than individuals.

However, critics say this makes it far harder for opposition factions to win seats and opposition candidates themselves have a long list of complaints.

Temir Sareriev, Ata Meken party candidate says that “the authorities stand against us”.

“Our people were beaten and intimidated. There were several attacks on our headquarters. They destroyed our promotional material. Our campaign trains and cars were attacked. The state TV channel boycotted us and we were not allowed to appear on TV for a month and a half. We couldn’t place even paid advertising in prime time,” he said.
It’s cast doubt in the western press that a country once heralded as a bastion of democracy in Central Asia may be sliding back towards authoritarian rule, a system of government the people overthrew in the Tulip Revolution just two and half years ago.

Ak Zhol's representatives say the opposition have had every chance to get their message across, but they do admit the new election system is far from perfect.

Elmira Ebraemova Deputy Chair of Ak Zhol said that during the election campaign they are learning “how the legislation should evolve in the future”.

She admits that some mistakes might occur, but those are just technical mistakes.

Meanwhile, the average Kyrgyzstan feels he has more money in his pocket now than before Bakiyev came to power and the last thing that many want is to jeopardize the status quo.

Some people say their standard of living has improved tremendously in recent times and what they want from the new government is more of the same.

“The majority of voters will of course support the pro-presidential party. No body knows what will happen in the coming hours, but I suppose that no serious skirmishes between the authorities and the opposition will take place in Kyrgyzstan. Pro-presidential party, called Ak Zhol or The Light Road in English, unites, practically, the whole Kyrgyz voters, and not the regional ones as it was earlier. And in Kyrgyzstan the difference between the South and the North produced a lot of problems in the past. But now they actually managed to unite the people. And the majority of the experts say that stability in Kyrgyzstan can be provided only by the victory of the pro-presidential party. But I suppose that the local parliament should include also the representatives of the opposition to produce some sort of consensus between those who who support the president by heart and those who don’t support him,” political analyst, Artyom Ulunyan, said.

“Stability in Kyrgyzstan can also produce stability in the whole region of Central Asia. A lot fear that after the victory of the opposition is some countries they will turn to the West. I don’t share this point of view. But the situation in Kyrgyzstan a lot more difficult, so independent of who will be elected, he will not break the relations with Russia both political, and economical,” he added.