Losing parties cry foul after tense Kyrgyz vote

Opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan cried foul on Monday after an automated count bedevilled by technical issues showed them losing in a parliamentary election.

Dozens of supporters of four opposition parties had gathered outside the offices of the Central Election Commission in the capital Bishkek, with police watching on.

In three decades of independence, the impoverished ex-Soviet Central Asian nation has seen three presidents unseated during street protests fuelled by a combination of corruption, crackdowns and anger over perceived election irregularities.

Populist leader Sadyr Japarov claimed ahead of Sunday’s vote that a coup attempt was being planned, and 15 people were detained.

Results based on a near-complete automated count on Sunday evening showed six parties entering parliament, with most expected to be loyal to Japarov’s government. 

But that was after the election commission’s website appeared to suffer technical problems and allocate more votes to the 21 parties competing than had been cast during the vote.  

“Votes were stolen from (our party),” Bektur Asanov, a candidate from the opposition Ata-Meken party, told a crowd of around 300 outside CEC headquarters.

“We don’t fear arrests. Again we have shamed ourselves in front of the world with these elections.” 

Officials have offered competing explanations for the website’s failure as votes rolled in. 

An international vote monitoring mission led by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe was to deliver its verdict on the vote later on Monday.

Kyrgyzstan’s most recent round of instability came after parliamentary elections a year ago, when supporters of losing parties took to the streets to denounce a vote they said was rigged in favour of parties close to then-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

The results were annulled and current leader Japarov, freed from prison during the unrest, was elected in January.

In an address published after Sunday’s voting finished, Japarov said elections were “in accordance with the country’s constitution and international norms” and warned losers at the ballot not to rock the boat.  

“The authorities will never give ground to those who intend to upset stability and peace,” he said.

In a subsequent Facebook post, Japarov wrote that members of the CEC, would “answer with their heads” if violations were proven to have taken place, and stressed the importance of an ongoing hand count.