Kyrgyz Leader's Party Wins All Seats

ReutersElection workers counting ballots at a Bishkek polling station. The OSCE criticized the vote as a "missed opportunity."
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party won every available seat in the next parliament, preliminary results showed Monday, after weekend elections sharply criticized by Western monitors and the opposition.

Kyrgyzstan, home to both U.S. and Russian military bases, has been volatile since Bakiyev came to power in 2005, when a string of violent protests triggered by a disputed election toppled his long-serving predecessor, Askar Akayev.

If confirmed by final results, Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party will dominate the 90-seat parliament in effective one-party rule -- a break from Kyrgyzstan's past as the most liberal state among more authoritarian Central Asian countries.

The election monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sent more than 250 observers for the elections, said the vote represented a "missed opportunity" to show commitment to international standards.

"The Dec. 16 parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan failed to meet a number of OSCE commitments, despite respect for some that underscore existing pluralism," it said in a statement.

"Overall, the election represented a missed opportunity and fell short of public expectations for further consolidation of the election process," it said.

Bakiyev has been accused at home of backtracking on his pre-election promises to bring more democracy and stability. He says stronger rule will help rebuild the economy, still in tatters after the collapse of the Soviet Union and burdened by huge debt.

Ak Zhol won 48 percent of Sunday's vote, the Central Election Commission said Monday, citing results after 80 percent had been counted. Final results are due later this week.

"It'll most likely be a one-party system," said Toktogul Kakchekeyev, an independent political analyst.

The opposition Ata Meken party was the only other party to pass the threshold of 5 percent, with 9.3 percent. But it failed to meet a separate requirement of collecting 0.5 percent of the vote in each of Kyrgyzstan's seven regions and two main cities.

The opposition condemned the elections as flawed, saying it had registered cases of forced voting and ballot stuffing. "We don't accept this election's result," said Kubatbek Baibolov, a member of the Ata Meken party. "The authorities ... are just cynically appointing their own people into the parliament. It will lead to trouble. People feel deceived."

The previous parliamentary elections in 2005, also disputed by the opposition, sparked violent protests that toppled Akayev and brought Bakiyev to power.

Ak Zhol says it sees Russia -- where the United Russia party controls more than two-thirds of seats in the State Duma -- as a guiding model. Neighboring Kazakhstan also has a one-party parliament.

"The desire to copy Russia and Kazakhstan is priority No. 1 for the authorities," said Kakchekeyev, the analyst.

But despite accusations of irregularities, many people said they voted of Ak Zhol, seeing it as a guarantor for stability following years of political turbulence and street protests.