Tensions in Kyrgyzstan peaked on Tuesday, October 6. Protesters stormed the seat of power in Bishkek, the capital of the Central Asian country, contesting the results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, and released former President Almazbek Atambayev from prison, according to media and one of his supporters . The demonstrators, who are demanding the resignation of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and the holding of new parliamentary elections, have met no resistance, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.
Accusations of fraud, including vote buying, tarnished those held on Sunday. The head of the OSCE mission to observe the elections, Thomas Boserup, had judged that the elections had gone “generally well” but that “credible allegations of vote buying raise serious concern”.
Protesters met no resistance
The demonstrators immediately released former President Almazbek Atambayev from prison “without using force or weapons,” one of his supporters, Adil Turdukuov, told Agence France-Presse. said to have witnessed the scene. The cell of the former leader, who was serving an eleven-year prison sentence and is a former protégé of the current president, was in the National Security Committee building and the guards offered no resistance, he said. . Videos posted soon after on social media showed Almazbek Atambayev waving to his supporters.
A witness who participated in entering Parliament, but requested anonymity, told Agence France-Presse that the protesters had forced their way into the building. “No one was trying to protect him when the crowd came in,” he said. “We stopped, we sang the national anthem and we entered the building without (meeting) any resistance,” he added, specifying that only a few “technical agents” were then inside. and quickly withdrew. Photos released by the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe showed protesters strolling through the main center of power in Kyrgyzstan.
The powers that be are trying to ease tensions
On Monday, at least 120 people had been hospitalized in Bishkek after clashes between the police and demonstrators who challenged the results of the previous day’s parliamentary elections dominated by two parties close to power. Police used stun grenades and then tear gas to disperse the hundreds of protesters gathered in the center of town. “More than 120 people have been hospitalized, several in serious condition,” the Kyrgyz health ministry said in a statement, adding that around half were “law enforcement officials”. The protest was organized at the call of five political parties which failed to meet the 7% threshold required to enter parliament.
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In an attempt to ease tensions, Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s office announced Monday evening that the 61-year-old president, elected in 2017, would meet with leaders of 16 parties that participated in the elections on Tuesday. In the evening, the pro-presidential Birimdik party, which came in first with 25% of the vote, announced that it accepted the idea of a new election, calling on all the other parties having exceeded 7% to do the same.
Birimdik and the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, both pro-Jeenbekov and in favor of Bishkek’s closer integration into the Eurasian Economic Union promoted by Moscow, are neck and neck with around a quarter of the vote. The pro-presidential Kyrgyzstan party is also expected to remain in parliament with nearly 9% of the vote. Two other formations, one nationalist and the other founded by a former Prime Minister, should also exceed 7%.
“Jeenbekov out! Matraimov outside! “
However, the clashes continued into the night in the streets surrounding the Ala-Too square in Bishkek where the demonstrators first met, according to a correspondent for Agence France-Presse. According to many witnesses, the shops in the city center have removed their products from the stalls for fear of possible looting. In the afternoon, at least 5,000 people gathered in Ala-Too Square, near the presidency, chanting anti-power slogans. “Jeenbekov out! Matraimov out! The crowd shouted, addressing President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and a former senior official accused of corruption.
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Ala-Too Square was the starting point of two revolutions in 2005 and 2010 which successively overthrew two authoritarian presidents. A popular singer in the country, Mirbek Atabekov, accused “politicians of putting money above everything”, calling on the crowd not to respond to provocations. Surrounded by authoritarian regimes, Kyrgyzstan, a poor mountainous country, is a democratic exception in Central Asia, even if political transitions have always been stormy.