Sat, Jul 25, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Bakiyev wins landslide, opposition cry foul

AFP , BISHKEK

People dance during an election rally in Bishkek on Thursday.

PHOTO: EPA

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev won a landslide second term in office yesterday, bagging nearly 90 percent of a little over a quarter of the vote counted so far, the election commission announced.

Bakiyev garnered a staggering 89.7 percent of the vote with 30 percent of the ballot counted.

He was widely expected to win re-election, but the landslide nature of the victory in a race that had been tightly contested by United People’s Movement candidate Almazbek Atambayev is certain to spark further allegations of electoral fraud from the opposition.

The country’s fractured opposition slammed the elections as “illegitimate” almost immediately after polls closed, but by evening they already appeared to be backing away from threats to paralyze the nation with street protests. Bakiyev, who the opposition accuses of employing intimidation and violence against his political opponents, pledged to crack down on any unauthorized demonstrations.

Polling stations across the mountainous former Soviet republic closed at 8pm and the Central Election Commission declared a huge turnout of almost 80 percent of registered voters.

Atambayev slammed the conduct of the election in an interview, saying that the opposition would refuse to recognize the results and seek assistance from the international community, but he struck a more conciliatory tone than the fiery rhetoric he had been using earlier in the day.

“In the end, we are going to win because we have the truth on our side. In fact, we’ve already won,” Atambayev said.

Earlier in the day, he angrily pulled his supporters out of polling stations across the country, saying the elections were fraudulent. At the same time, he denied reports that he had officially withdrawn his candidacy at such a late date — a move that could leave him open to prosecution under Kyrgyz law.

“I didn’t withdraw my candidacy and I’m not even able to do so under Kyrgyz law,” Atambayev said.

After polls closed, some 2,000 opposition supporters gathered at Atambayev’s campaign headquarters on the outskirts of Bishkek for what they had billed a victory concert.

Framed by floodlights, supporters of the opposition leader packed into the courtyard outside the building, dancing to traditional Kyrgyz folk music, waving white flags and shouting “down with Bakiyev,” and other slogans.

Although several groups of young men said that they were planning to march into the center of Bishkek in defiance of a government ban, the concert ended without incident and the city was quiet as results came in.

The government earlier called in more than 5,000 troops to Bishkek for the election and Bakiyev issued a stern warning on Thursday against attempts to organize illegal protests.

“We will suppress, within the limits of the law, any attempts to organize disorder and will not tolerate the destabilization of the situation in the country,” Bakiyev said in comments released by his press service.

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