MOSCOW (AP) – Kyrgyz voters cast their ballot on Sunday in parliamentary elections that come just over a year after a sweeping change of government in the former Soviet Central Asian nation.
President Sadyr Zhaparov, who was elected in January following protests that toppled his predecessor, expects the ballot to further strengthen his grip on power.
With 65% of the constituencies counted, three blocs all supporting Zhaparov became the main voters.
Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million people bordering China, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances. It houses a Russian air base and depends on financial support from Moscow.
Zhaparov was serving an 11-and-a-half-year sentence for kidnapping a regional governor in connection with a gold mine dispute when he was released by stone-throwing supporters who challenged the results of the parliamentary elections in ‘October 2020.
The unrest last year marked the third violent ousting of the country’s leader in 15 years. Like previous uprisings that toppled presidents in 2005 and 2010, the unrest of 2020 was driven by clan rivalries that shape the country’s politics.
After his election, Zhaparov pushed for a referendum which approved a new constitution that significantly increased presidential powers at the expense of parliament. He reduced the size of the country’s parliament from 120 to 90 seats and gave the president the power to appoint judges and heads of law enforcement.
In Sunday’s vote, 54 seats are filled by party lists and the remaining 36 are filled by one-round ballots.
With 65% of the constituencies counted, Ata-Zhurt (Father Kyrgyzstan), Ishenim (Faith) and Yntymak (Harmony) led the race with respectively around 30%, 25% and 20% of the votes on the party lists, according to the Central Election Commission. All three blocks were loyal to Zhaparov.
A few opposition parties were far behind.
Tensions had mounted in the country ahead of the vote, with Zhaparov accusing his political enemies of staging a mutiny and warning those who attempted to stage post-election riots would face prosecution.
“Some politicians are planning an armed coup,” Zhaparov said. “We all know them and after the vote we will take tough action against them. People who take to the streets for no reason will face severe punishment. “
On Friday, the National Security Agency said it foiled a coup plot involving several “destructive-minded” members of parliament and former senior officials who were accused of recruiting around 1 000 supporters and having stockpiled weapons and drugs to organize post-election riots.
On Saturday, the Kyrgyz authorities announced the arrest of four representatives of political parties accused of attempting to buy votes.