Kyrgyz vote wins 90% support, Russia wary

Russia fears Islamist militancy in Central Asia, as Kyrgyz vote wins 90% support.

Updated: Jun 29, 2010, 12:43 PM IST

Moscow: Central Asia`s first parliamentary democracy, referendum results showed on Monday, prompting a Russian warning that extremists could manipulate parliament and seize power.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country shares U.S. fears about Islamist militancy in Central Asia, said the political system set up by Sunday`s referendum could bring extremists to power or cause the collapse of the state.

At least 294 people, possibly hundreds more, were killed this month in violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic which hosts U.S. and Russian military air bases and shares a border with China.

Official results showed that with almost all votes counted, 90.6 percent of voters backed a new constitution paving the way for a parliamentary election in October.

Only 8 percent voted against, according to preliminary data from all but one of the country`s 2,319 polling stations, the Central Election Commission said on its website, www.shailoo.gov.kg. Turnout was 69 percent.

The commission`s head, Akylbek Sariyev, said final official results would be known in two to three days, after all ballot papers had been collected. Results have been relayed in electronic form from regional centers to the capital Bishkek.

Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva, speaking before the first results were known on Sunday, said Kyrgyzstan -- which lies on a major drug trafficking route from Afghanistan -- had embarked on a path to establishing a "true people`s democracy."

The 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the referendum was transparent and the high voter turnout signaled the resilience of Kyrgyz citizens.

Its election monitoring arm, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said it had observed some flaws that would require improvement ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October and every five years thereafter.

The United States and Russia say they would support a strong government to prevent ethnic turmoil spreading throughout Central Asia, a region in which all countries have until now been run by authoritarian presidents.

"We hope that this is an effective step toward stable, democratic governance. We welcome the calm, orderly process, but await final polling results," a U.S. State Department spokesman said on Sunday as the first results came in.

The United Nations said its special representative for Central Asia, Miroslav Jenca, was encouraged by the high turnout and the referendum was an important step toward promoting the rule of law and establishing a legitimate government.

The U.N. sent a cargo plane carrying fleece blankets and other humanitarian aid to Osh. It also said it would advise the government on the organization of the general election.

Bureau Report