Friday, 24 July 2009

Election count number 2. Kyrgyzstan. Slightly more contentious.

Norwich North is not the only election count taking place this morning. In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 25% of votes cast in the country’s presidential election have already been counted.

In the East Anglian parliamentary constituency, it is expected that the Conservative candidate will win with comparative ease. The current Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, will certainly be returned with a thumping, improbable majority. In Norfolk Labour’s candidate was confined to bed with swine flu during the final days of the campaign. In Kyrgyzstan Bakiyev’s main rival, Almazbek Atambaev, withdrew from the election on Thursday, claiming fraud.

The country’s central election commission has announced that the President has won 87.7 per cent of the vote so far. In contrast Atambaev, who has already denounced the poll as a fraud, has taken roughly 5% of the counted ballots. Other candidates’ tallies are negligible.

The opposition claimed yesterday that widespread violations have taken place, including ballot stuffing and harassment of monitors. For an impartial assessment we must wait until the OSCE give their view, later today.

What we do know is that the election descended into farce yesterday (polling day) with Atambaev’s withdrawal, which came too late to remove his name from ballot papers. The decision was precipitated by the detention of one of the former prime minister’s campaign managers. The opposition leader has appealed to voters to take to the streets, but the response has been patchy and the capital, at least, remained quiet yesterday.

Like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan experienced a colour revolution in the middle of the decade and the country became a key regional ally for the US. The 2005 presidential election, which saw Bakiyev take power, was hailed as the first free and fair poll in Central Asia.

Kyrgyzstan’s strategic importance to the campaign in Afghanistan remains unaltered, but, in common with its Trans Caucasian counterpart, democratic slippage since the Tulip Revolution has been discernible.

The OSCE’s report, and US reaction, will be interesting.

Update: The OSCE report finds a series of problems with the poll, but 'some positive elements'.

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