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Kyrgyzstan: Presidential Elections Are Over

Tolkun Umaraliev says the opposition candidates claim the election in Kyrgyzstan to be illegal.

There is a confusion among media, both local and foreign, that candidates Nazaraliev and Atambaev have withdrawn their candidacies. However, both Nazaraliev and Atambaev have several times stated that according to the law on elections, they cant withdraw their candidacies during the election day. They are just considering this election corrupt, and want it to be reheld.

There's video, too:

That's Omurbek Tekebaev, calling the Kyrgyz government criminal and declaring “war” on current president Kurmabnek Bakiev. He has good reason to think so—in 2006 he was basically framed at the Bishkek airport.

There is a lot of internet chatter about supposed fraud.

Blive.kg, one of the video servers in Kyrgyz internet domain, has several videos showing the violations of election norms, including opening of polling stations before arrival of observers, ballot stuffingand carousel voting. As Blive is not accessible outside of Kyrgyzstan, I downloaded ‘norms violations videos’ from there and uploaded in YouTube. But the problem is that one cannot really prove that all these movies were taken during the 2009 presidential elections.

There are also videos of so-called “carousel-voting,” where groups go to different polling stations using different sets of IDs, and election observers arriving on site to find ballots already in the ballot box.

Topchubek Turgunaliev, an opposition politician who has spent a lot of time fighting electoral fraud, has alleged that there are large numbers of dead people on the voter rolls. Even though he no longer wants to be considered for President, former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev has lead much of the charge against the elections. A former Prime Minister, he accused officials of election fraud and announced he was quitting the race shortly after learning that one of his local campaign managers had been detained. He's also alleged that an additional 20-30 “opposition members” have been arrested in Issyk-Kul.

Kurmanbek Bakiev, however, seems to have squeaked through, though maybe not with the reported 67% margin. The New York Times ran a depressing story today about how the U.S. goal is to look the other way, as they're too excited about getting Manas back to rock to boat too much on those pesky human rights abuses.

Obviously we don't know for certain that there was specifically voter fraud, in part because most of the observers seemed to have given up and left early (their report will be interesting). We do know, however, there was widespread intimidation beforehand, and there are certainly indications that some forms of voter fraud were widespread and not just limited to somewhere like Bishkek. It's still early, and it's just turning morning in Kyrgyzstan, so there will probably be a lot more news today. A good place to keep up is the #kyrgyzelections tag on Twitter. It doesn't garner the same amount of attention as Iran or Michael Jackson, but it's a good source for news.

This is now the second post-Soviet ally whose abuses the U.S. has remained officially silent about in the last few months (the other, obviously, is Georgia). I'm no bleeding heart, but it is interesting that, as much as the U.S. makes hay about human rights and vote fraud when it suits a simplistic good versus evil narrative, it also prefers to look away when its friends behave even kind of similarly. The U.S. doesn't have to walk on egg shells, it just needs to point out that it's not comfortable or happy with these kinds of things. Baby steps.

Update: The OSCE has officially said the Kyrgyz election “failed to meet key OSCE commitments, despite some positive elements.” Before the elections, OSCE observers saw “instances of obstruction of opposition campaign events as well as pressure and intimidation of opposition supporters.” Then, on election day, there were “many problems and irregularities, including ballot box stuffing, inaccuracies in the voter lists, and multiple voting.” But hey, at least they had multiple candidates!

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