Opposition leader attacked after record-low-turnout elections in Kyrgyzstan

On Sunday November 28, 2021, voters in Kyrgyzstan cast their ballots as the country elected its new parliament. The elections were called after the Central Election Commission annulled last year’s flawed elections which saw unrest massive unrest and protest in the capital. The preliminary results indicate that pro-government parties will gain majority in parliament, although a manual recount of the votes is ongoing. When polling stations closed, the total voter turnout showed 34.6%.

During election day a scandal erupted as the Central Electoral Commission’s online vote monitor blacked out. When it was back online a while later, the numbers were drastically changed, several opposition parties had now fallen below the five-percent threshold required to win seats in parliament. The Electoral Commission later stated that the issue was caused by a calculation mistake by one of its officials which produced misrepresentative numbers. Then during the downtime, the numbers were corrected, according to the Commission. Due to the controversy, all votes are being manually recounted. Adding to the controversy, the Electoral Commission stated that 116 246 ballots, close to ten percent of all votes cast, were declared invalid and discarded. The Commission has not yet explained the reason for discarding the votes.

Following the controversy, several opposition parties declared they would not recognize the elections as legitimate, and several small-scale street protests took place in Bishkek in the days after the elections. On December 1, around 300 members of the opposition party Ata-Meken (Homeland) protested outside the office of the Electoral Commission, calling for a new election. At the same time, around 70 masked men swarmed Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev outside the Park Hotel restaurant in Bishkek. Three of the men physically assaulted Tekebayev and reportedly took his phone. According to reports, the group of men arrived at the scene in several minibuses.

– Authorities in Kyrgyzstan must launch a thorough and immediate investigation into the attack on Tekebayev, and bring those responsible, including those behind the attack, to justice, said Geir Hønneland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

– The Central Electoral Commission must explain why nearly ten percent of the ballots were discarded. In a best-case scenario a staggering ten percent of voters were confused and mislead by the new voting system, in a worst-case scenario we may be looking at election fraud, concluded Hønneland.

Background:

Last year on October 4, Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections marred by fraud, vote buying and misuse of state resources. During the protests and unrest that followed, then-sitting president Jeenbekov resigned, and Sadyr Japarov ascended to the presidency. After coming to power, president Japarov soon initiated several amendments to the Constitution. Among the amendments were changes to the electoral laws – while the outgoing parliament had 120 seats, the new parliament will only have 90 members. 54 are elected through national party lists, while 36 are elected from individual electoral districts. The November 28 election is the first time Kyrgyzstan has applied such a combined system.

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