ELECTION WITHOUT A CHOICE

 

PRAGUE, 2 October.  Recent presidential election in Kyrgyzstan had every chance to make history as the first competitive and peaceful transition of authority marking the end of the country’s turbulent past. Democratic handover of power from the incumbent president who served until the end of his constitutional term to the legitimately elected successor. This was indeed, historic election. Although, not as described above, but rather as the most controversial in the history of post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.

 

Legitimacy of this presidential election had already been challenged during the election campaign. Across the Republic there were instances of unconstitutional campaigning. Political activists and public figures, all members of the civic movement “For Fair Election”, had time and again appealed to the Kyrgyz President, Prime Minister and the Central Electoral Committee to address the allegations. However, the state openly promoted the pro-government candidate ignoring any calls for investigation.

 

The President Almazbek Atambayev brazenly endorsed his Social Democratic Party’s candidate and a former Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Following suit, parliamentarians and religious leaders threw their unanimous support behind the handpicked successor.

 

The election was marred by gross violations ranging from dismantling oppositional political banners by pro-government supporters to criminal prosecution of oppositional campaign members on trumped-up charges.

 

Thus, Deputy Kanat Isaev, closest associate of Omurbek Babanov, the leader of the “Republic” party, was detained and accused of plotting coup d’etat. The charges were completely unsubstantiated and suspiciously conveniently timed to the juncture of the electoral campaign when Mr. Jeenbekov’s rating plummeted.

 

Other violations included a hundred instances of mass misinformation campaigns with regards to the candidates’ withdrawal from the campaign or precarious political unions. Candidates hurled threats at each, harassed journalists who were trying to make sense of the ongoing political rampage, and leaked smearing and misleading footage.

 

The voting itself registered an unprecedented number of violations – ballot stuffing at polling stations, illicit campaigning on the election day, and voter ID fraud. In one of the polling stations the observers detained a voter who was trying to hand in 20 ballots. In another station the same was attempted by election commission member. He had 56 fraudulent ballots.

 

And while Russia accepted the election results as fair and democratic, most of the Kyrgyz voters have a very different opinion.

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