PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS ELIMINATED FROM PARLIAMENT.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 62
The political composition of the Kyrgyz parliament is still unclear after the March 12 election runoff, in which eighty-one out of ninety legislative seats were at stake in the single-mandate electoral districts. Only twenty-four seats–including fifteen on party slates–had been adjudicated in the first round on February 20 (see the Monitor, February 17, 28). The monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has issued a highly critical assessment of the authorities’ handling of the election, particularly of the runoff. The 200-strong mission–supplemented by almost 2,000 local observers–noted widespread interference by government officials with the electoral process, pressures on local electoral commissions and voters, nontransparent ballot counting, as well as bribing of voters by some candidates. The OSCE found that the legal prerequisites which did exist for fair elections had been undermined. It urged the government to address these problems before the December 2000 presidential election, of which the parliamentary elections are considered a dress rehearsal.
Prior to the parliamentary elections, Daniar Usenov and Feliks Kulov had each announced their intention to challenge incumbent President Askar Akaev in the December presidential election. They expected to win parliamentary seats and use them as springboards for their presidential bids. However, neither made it into the new parliament. Usenov, leader of the El Bei Bechara [Unprotected People] Party and a member of the outgoing parliament from Bishkek, was disqualified by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) before the runoff on the grounds that his legally required income declaration was incomplete. The courts all the way to the Supreme Court upheld the CEC’s decision on appeal.
Ar-Namys (Honor, or Dignity) Party leader Kulov, considered potentially the strongest presidential aspirant outside the Communist Party, lost the runoff to a lesser opponent in the Kara-Buura electoral district, Talas Region, northwestern Kyrgyzstan, by a margin of 56 percent to 40, according to the official returns. Kulov disputes the validity of those returns while small crowds of his supporters have been staging protest demonstrations and pickets in the town of Kara-Buura and in the center of the capital Bishkek every day since March 12. Some of them have been marching with portraits of the candidate, inscribed “The People’s General”–apparently a reference to Kulov’s background in the KGB and the Internal Affairs Ministry. Their demands include annulling the runoff results in Kara-Buura, reinstating Usenov’s candidacy in his district, repeating both runoffs and punishing officials presumably responsible for falsification of the returns.
According to Kulov’s organization, some of those supporters have declared labor strikes to protest the official electoral returns. On March 18, the chairman of the Kara-Buura district electoral commission committed suicide. On March 22, the National Security Ministry (NSM) arrested its former head, Kulov, for investigation on charges of misappropriation of state funds and abuse of power. The NSM earlier arrested Kulov’s Bishkek campaign manager, Emil Aliev, on charges of financial fraud. The charges against Kulov stem from his unauthorized purchase in Moscow in 1997/98–while heading that ministry–of listening equipment for the “Kalkan” antiterrorist unit which he had set up and the alleged use of that equipment for eavesdropping on Akaev’s office. Those events led to Kulov’s dismissal as minister and his ultimate break with Akaev. An investigation had been in progress since March 1999 against Kulov (KyrgyzKabar, Bishkek Radio, Vecherniy Bishkek, Western news agencies, Itar-Tass, March 13-26)
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