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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kyrgyz Opposition Calls Foul on Poll

APOpposition leader Atambayev speaking at a rally late Thursday. He won just 8 percent of the vote in official results.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyzstan’s opposition on Saturday presented video recordings that it claimed showed widespread fraud in last week’s presidential election and announced plans for anti-government demonstrations.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev won a second term in Thursday’s election, taking 83 percent of the vote, compared with main opposition candidate Almazbek Atambayev’s 8 percent, according to official results. But the opposition is crying fraud, and the election has come under sharp international criticism.

“You cannot call this an election. We don’t recognize it, we demand a repeat vote,” Bakyt Beshimov, Atambayev’s campaign chief, told reporters Saturday. He said the opposition planned nationwide rallies starting Wednesday.

“We can’t stand this any more. People must fight for their rights,” he said, adding that exit polls conducted by their monitors at virtually all polling stations showed Atambayev winning 60 percent, with Bakiyev getting just 25 percent.

The planned protests will take place days before a security meeting in Kyrgyzstan, where President Dmitry Medvedev and other regional leaders are scheduled to attend.

Violent protests sparked by allegations of fraud in a national election in 2005 led to chaos after demonstrators stormed into the presidential building and forced longtime leader Askar Akayev to flee, bringing Bakiyev to power.

Stability in Kyrgyzstan, a nation of 5 million on the western border of China, is of strong interest to both Russia and the United States. The country hosts a U.S. air base crucial to operations in Afghanistan and is the focus of competition between Washington and Moscow for regional influence.

Beshimov spoke at a news conference where recordings were played that appeared to show men casting multiple ballots and a single group of voters being bused to numerous voting stations.

Opposition claims of election fraud were lent weight Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s election-monitoring arm, which said the vote was tarnished by ballot-box stuffing and widespread irregularities in vote counting. The European Union supported the report.

“We fully agree with the OSCE’s finding that election day was a disappointment,” Beshimov said.

The report said observers rated over half the vote counts at precincts as unacceptable.

Atambayev has dismissed the election as fraudulent and is demanding a rerun, but the government has maintained a firm silence over the outcome and charges of electoral fraud.

Speaking after talks with OSCE observers Saturday, Kyrgyz elections chief Damir Lisovsky said he was “concerned” about the OSCE assessment.

Bakiyev’s supporters say he has increased government spending and boosted salaries and pensions, as well building many new schools and hospitals. But the global financial crisis has slammed Russia and neighboring Kazakhstan, devastating Kyrgyzstan’s economy, which relies heavily on remittances and trade.

Under a recent deal to extend the lease of the U.S. air base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan will receive $60 million in annual rent, more than triple the previous amount, plus a further $120 million in investment and aid.

Bakiyev has also secured more than $2 billion in aid and loans from Russia.

(AP, Reuters)