By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BISHKEK/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– The organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, said Friday, July 24, that Kyrgyzstan’s presidential wass overshadowed by widespread irregularities to ensure victory of the incumbent leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
The OSCE said its roughly 280 monitors in Kyrgyzstan have concluded that the country’s presidential election did not meet “key international standards”.
Election officials said the incumbent president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was re-elected with the support from nearly nine out of every 10 voters.
But speaking from the capital Bishkek, OSCE spokesman Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer, suggested to BosNewsLife there are doubts about the results.
He said observers noted incidents of ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, and even vote buying. In addition, he said, OSCE representatives were not allowed to monitor the vote count.
“The observers were not allowed to be present and monitor the count. There were two cases for examples where the ballots were not counted at all and just packed,” he said. “The form was filled in with the result but the votes were not counted. We had three observer teams who saw people in front or near polling stations handing out money in exchange for promises to vote for a candidate,” he added.
Eschenbächer also said the situation remains tense in at least some parts of the country following opposition protests, against the results.
“There were reports about clashes in one town in the north where tear gas was used to disperse a demonstration. We now enter the post election period where I feel some complaints have to be dealt with by the election administration, the judiciary, and will follow closely this process,” he explained.
He said the OSCE will make a final assessment about the election in a report to be published within two months. However the opposition has already demanded a new ballot.
In comments aired by Russia Today television, the main opposition presidential candidate Almazbek Atambayev, said Kyrgyzstan President Bakiyev continues the “corrupt” traditions of his predecessor.
President Bakiyev came to power in 2005 after his predecessor Askar Akayev was ousted in street protests that became known as the “Tulip Revolution.”
The current political tensions are closely watched by the United States. It recently managed to get a new agreement allowing the U.S. to maintain its air base in Kyrgyzstan for military operations in Afghanistan.
The accord came several months after Kyrgyzstan ordered American troops to leave the Manas base by mid August. Under the deal approved by President Bakiyev, the air base at Kyrgyzstan’s main airport will be a transit center and the rent increased to $60 million a year, from $17 million now. There will also be a further $120 million in investment and aid.
Russia too has its interests in the country. Moscow recently pledged to give Kyrgyzstan about $2 billion in aid in what analysts say is a move to increase Russia’s influence in the strategic region.
Commentators have described Kyrgyzstan as “the focus of superpower rivalry in Central Asia” and say its stability is seen as vital in the international fight against Islamic militants and terrorism.