US ally Kyrgyzstan holds Soviet-style election
As host to a key US air base – used to support troops in Afghanistan – the country may feel little pressure to address electoral and human rights abuses.
MOSCOW – A disputed election in strategic Kyrgyzstan, a tiny mountain republic at the very heart of Asia where the United States maintains an important air base, has returned President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to power with a Sovietesque 85 percent of the vote.Skip to next paragraph
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Opposition candidates cried foul and withdrew before the vote-counting was finished, while international observers have reported numerous election violations in Thursday's election.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which fielded 280 monitors, said "the conduct of election day was a disappointment" and said the election was marred by intimidation of opposition supporters, media bias, and reports of ballot-box stuffing instances of multiple voting.
"Sadly, this election did not show the progress we were hoping for and it again fell short of key standards Kyrgyzstan has committed to as a participating state of the OSCE," the official observer's report said Friday.
A US State Department spokesman told the Monitor that the US is still gathering information about the election and that it was "too early to tell" if it was stolen, adding that the US is "concerned about some of the reports that have been coming out." He said the US was concerned about journalist repression in the run-up to the election, particularly the beating to death of local journalist Almazbek Tashiyev by a group of police on July 12.
Why Bakiyev will be allowed to carry on
Beyond a bit of official scolding, however, it seems unlikely that major powers will take any steps to punish Mr. Bakiyev or Kyrgyzstan for what appears to be serious backsliding from the great hopes aroused by the 2005 "Tulip Revolution," one of a wave of democratic upsurges that many hoped would lead to liberalization across the former Soviet Union.
Muted criticism is likely because while Kyrgyzstan has become more autocratic and abusive of the rights of its citizens under Bakiyev, it is also at the center of a strategic tug-of-war involving Russia, China, the US and the Europe for influence in energy-rich but politically unstable former Soviet central Asia.