Tense Kyrgyzstan votes in `historic` polls

Kyrgyzstan voted in elections for the first parliament with real power in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan): Kyrgyzstan on Sunday
voted in elections for the first parliament with real power in
ex-Soviet Central Asia, hoping the polls will bring stability
after a year of violence that left hundreds dead.

President Roza Otunbayeva, who came to power in a
bloody uprising in April and has championed the new political
system, rejected warnings from Russia that the elections
risked sparking a resurgence of the violence.

"Today I am calm and I think that the elections will
proceed normally, without excesses, because a lot of resources
have been invested in them," she told reporters as she cast
her vote.

"Today is a historic day for the Republic of
Kyrgyzstan. The people will choose their fate, their future,"
she added.

Some 2.8 million of the country`s five million
population are eligible to vote.

Kyrgyzstan created Central Asia`s first parliamentary
democracy in a referendum earlier this year after the bloody
April revolution, which toppled former president Kurmanbek
Bakiyev, and deadly inter-ethnic clashes in June.

The system, which will allow the Zhogorku Kenesh
parliament to appoint the government, is a stark contrast to
the strongman presidential rule elsewhere in the region where
parliaments operate as no more than a rubber stamp.

But around six parties are expected to pass the five
per cent threshold to win seats in the assembly, meaning that
the outcome is set to be anything but simple with intense
post-election bartering likely.

A pair of pro-Otunbayeva centre-left parties --
Ata-Meken and the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK)
-- are expected to figure prominently but not win a majority,
according to recent opinion polls.

But an upset could come from the Ar-Namys party led by
ex-prime minister Felix Kulov, a favourite of the Kremlin who
has campaigned under law-and-order slogans and vowed to
reinstate the presidential system favoured by Moscow.

The virulently nationalist Ata-Zhurt, targeted this
week in a mob raid on its offices that saw piles of its
campaign literature burned in the street, has also made a
strong campaign showing.

But Otunbayeva played down fears that the elections
will create a chaotic patchwork of parties in the Zhogorku
Kenesh, saying she believed it could form a government "if not
at the first then at the second attempt".


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