New prime minister appointed after night of violence

Kyrgyzstan overturned the controversial results of its legislative elections on Tuesday, after a night of post-election violence that left one dead and led to the liberation by the street of the chief rival of the head of state.

Challenged by protesters, the results of the October 4, 2020 election “have now been declared invalid,” said the Election Commission of the former Soviet Republic of Central Asia.

The statement came after protesters stormed the seat of government overnight and released ex-President Almazbek Atambayev, a former ally and rival of Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, from prison. He had been in prison for a year.

The head of state, however, has “control” of the situation in the country, according to the Kyrgyz presidency.

The person assured not to have knowingly given the order to open fire on the demonstrators who, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, stormed a series of official buildings, including the seat of government, nicknamed the White House. “I ordered the police […] not to spill blood, ”he said.

Clashes between police and demonstrators in Bishkek, the capital, however, left one dead and several hundred injured, including many police officers. The deceased is “probably a protester” because of his civilian clothes, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told AFP on Tuesday.

Deja vu

These riots are reminiscent of those of 2005 and 2010 which turned into a revolution, peppered with looting, driving out of power the authorities in place accused of corruption and authoritarian drift.

On Tuesday, opposition politicians, including a former prime minister and several party leaders, announced that they had formed a “coordination council” aimed at restoring stability and “bringing back the rule of law.”

Sunday’s legislative elections and their controversial results brought thousands of power critics to the streets of the capital on Monday. Then overnight, clashes with police broke out after riot control forces dispersed the protesters with stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons. The street responded with cobblestones and other projectiles, protecting itself from police, including burning garbage cans.

The clashes left more than 600 injured, 164 of whom were hospitalized, according to a latest report established by the Ministry of Health.

The release of former President Atambayev was followed by those of several other political figures detained.

For his detractors, President Jeenbekov imprisoned his predecessor and political sponsor to shed his influence and establish his authority after his election in 2017.

Mr. Atambayev was held in the prison of the security services, after a sentence of 11 years imprisonment and awaiting a new trial for organizing mass unrest and murder, charges related to his arrest in violence in 2019 who had already threatened to destabilize the country.

Adil Turdoukov, an ally of Mr. Atambayev, said that the release of the ex-president was made “without violence”, and that the forces present had not put up resistance.

Election fraud

The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Sooronbai Jeenbekov and the holding of new elections. Those on Sunday saw two parties in favor of the head of state dominate the poll.

The protest, which was originally peaceful, was staged on Monday at the appeal of several political parties who failed to meet the 7% threshold required to enter parliament.

However, even before the vote, suspicions of significant vote buying hung over these elections.

The head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission to observe the elections, Thomas Boserup, said that these “credible allegations” raised “serious concern”.

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan, a poor country in ex-Soviet Central Asia, have been plagued by a series of political and financial scandals in recent months. The south of the country was also the scene in 2010 of deadly ethnic clashes targeting the Uzbek community.

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