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Elections in Kyrgyzstan: protests in Bishkek over allegations of electoral fraud

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Multimedia captionThousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Bishkek

Protesters and riot police clashed in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan after allegations of electoral fraud in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The police used stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters in Ala-Too square, before following them into nearby streets.

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20 people were injured, half of whom were law enforcement, the health ministry said in a statement.

Several people are in serious condition but there have been no deaths, he said.

In Sunday’s elections, only four out of 16 parties passed the 7% threshold for entry into parliament, three of which have close ties to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Groups close to the president have been accused of vote-buying and intimidating voters – they say international monitors say they are “credible” and cause for “grave concern”.

On Monday, 12 opposition parties jointly declared that they would not recognize the results of the vote.

Later, President Jeenbekov’s office said it would meet on Tuesday with leaders of all 16 parties that participated in the elections in an effort to ease tensions.

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Two parties with close ties to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov each took 25% of the vote

The opposition candidates have also asked the Central Election Commission to cancel the election results.

One candidate, Ryskeldi Mombekov, told a crowd of more than 5,000 protesters on Monday: “The president has promised to oversee fair elections. He hasn’t kept his word.”

Mombekov’s party, Ata Meken, was confident of entering parliament, but in the end it was one of eight parties that missed the threshold. Ata Meken leader Janar Akaev suffered a leg injury during protests on Monday.

Protesters also called for President Jeenbekov to step down.

Thomas Boserup, head of the Election Observation Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in a briefing that, although the vote was “generally well organized”, the vote-buying allegations “serious concern”.

How the protests have intensified

Almaz Tchoroev, BBC News, Bishkek

Police used water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas on the demonstrators.

They initially used force to disperse the protesters in the main square, but as the crowd moved to other streets in Bishkek, the police continued to chase them.

Reports of injuries are also coming in, both among protesters and police. An opposition leader, Janar Akaev, is among the wounded.

There were around 5,000 people protesting in Ala-Too Square and the demonstration was largely peaceful for most of the day. But at around 20:10 local time (14:10 GMT), a small group of protesters split up and went to the parliament building, known as the White House. When they arrived, they reportedly tried to break through the gates.

This is what triggered the police response. The police had said they would not interfere in the protests as long as they remained peaceful, but this was seen as a provocative act.

The two leading parties, which each received a quarter of the votes, were Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan.

President Jeenbekov’s younger brother, Asylbek Jeenbekov, is a member of Birimdik.

Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, is seen as closely connected to the powerful Matraimov family. The family figurehead, Rayimbek Matraimov, was the target of the anti-corruption protests last year and is believed to have helped fund Jeenbekov’s successful presidential campaign in 2017.

Late Monday evening Birimdik announced it would be open to a re-run of Sunday’s elections and called on other parties that had crossed the 7% threshold to do the same.

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