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Kyrgyzstan cancels disputed election results after protesters seize government building, free jailed ex-president Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Kyrgyzstan cancels disputed election results after protesters seize government building, free jailed ex-president

Protesters seized Kyrgyzstan's parliament building [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 October, 2020

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Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission cancelled the results of a Sunday poll after protesters claimed fraud and clashed with police, seizing the main government building and freeing a jailed former president.

Kyrgyzstan’s chief electoral body said on Tuesday that it was cancelling the results of a parliamentary vote that plunged the Central Asian country into clashes and political chaos.

The Central Electoral Commission said in a statement that it had "invalidated the election results" which saw parties close to pro-Russian President Sooronbay Jeenbekov score big wins amid accusations of mass vote-buying campaigns.

Earlier on Tuesday, protesters seized Kyrgyzstan's seat of government in the capital Bishkek and freed a jailed former president after demonstrations against the election results developed into violent clashes with police.

Opposition supporters hit the streets of Bishkek the previous evening to demand Jeenbekov’s resignation of and a re-run of Sunday's poll.

Police used water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to force their way through the gates of the building that houses the former Soviet republic's parliament and presidential offices.

Photos published by Radio Free Europe later showed protesters strolling around the building unhindered.

A crowd of around 2,000 people then forced their way into the nearby National Security Committee building, where former president Almazbek Atambayev was jailed.

Adil Turdukuov, an activist and ally of Atambayev who witnessed the release said the ex-leader was freed "without force or use of any weapons" and that national security officials had not attempted to halt protesters.

"They surrendered," he added.

Footage posted on social media showed Atambayev, 64, greeting supporters after he left jail, where he was serving an 11-year-sentence for his role in the illegal release of a mob boss.

Atambayev was once close with his successor Jeenbekov, but the pair fell out shortly after the 61-year-old won the country's last presidential election in 2017.

Both men are viewed as loyal allies of Russia, whose strategic position in the country is likely to remain unaffected despite the unrest.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin tried to broker a peace between the pair last year but could not prevent Atambayev's arrest.

Clashes through the night

The two parties that won Sunday's disputed poll are supportive of the current president and hostile towards his predecessor.

But both were viewed by rival parties of coordinating a massive vote-buying campaign.

Monday's clashes began after an initially peaceful rally held by losing parties spun out of control.

Police attempted to disperse protesters when they first attempted to force their way to the main government building, known as the White House, on Monday evening.

At one point a Radio Free Europe live feed showed police throwing stun grenades as they struggled to push back protesters, who appeared to have set several bins on fire in one particularly fierce exchange.

Health authorities said that one person had been killed and at least 120 people were being treated for injuries.

Opposition supporters had called for a re-run of Sunday's election after an international monitoring mission organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported "credible allegations" of vote-buying.

The preliminary count showed two pro-presidency parties, Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, who both favour deeper integration with Moscow, together taking around half of the vote.

Birimdik, which includes the president's younger brother Asylbek Jeenbekov, said it was open to a re-run of the vote on Monday, but by that time police were already struggling to bring protesters under control.

Opposition parties earlier distanced themselves from the first attempt to storm the government complex.

Elvira Surabaldiyeva, a member of the Ata-Meken party, told AFP her party had no role in the incident, which she blamed on "provocateurs".

But she added that her party would "stand with the people to the end".

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