Kyrgyz Opposition Candidate Disqualified for Posting Ballot

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz authorities have disqualified an opposition candidate ahead of next week's parliamentary elections, accusing him of illegally publishing a copy of the official ballot paper on his personal web site.

The Central Election Commission said publishing the ballot papers could help forgers falsify the vote and barred Edil Baisalov of the Social Democratic party from the Dec. 16 vote.

"The CEC has canceled Baisalov's registration as a candidate," it said in a statement Tuesday, adding that it had ordered the entire issue of more than 2 million papers be reprinted.

Baisalov refused to confirm or deny the publication but said his disqualification was an attempt by the authorities to stifle critical voices ahead of the vote. The picture was not on his blog late Tuesday.

"I criticized the quality of the ballot papers," Baisalov said. "They ... have turned me into a scapegoat."

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's Ak-Zhol party is widely expected to win a majority of seats in the vote. Last week, Bakiyev dismissed his prime minister, Almazbek Atambayev, the main supporter of the opposition Social Democratic party.

The last parliamentary vote in 2005 triggered violent opposition protests that toppled Kyrgyzstan's long-serving leader, Askar Akayev, and brought Bakiyev and his team to power.

Although Kyrgyzstan appeared calm ahead of this election, Russia and Western nations are watching closely for any signs of new instability that could spill over into neighboring countries.