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Click to view image: 'Kurmanbek Bakiyev'
The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) lambasted the Kyrgyzstan administration for running a fraudulent Presidential election on Thursday, which resulted in a landslide victory for the incumbent, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who supposedly won 85% of the vote.
The OSCE, a European-based regional security organization and watchdog group, had 280 election monitors on the ground to ensure international election standards and commitments were met by the Kyrgyz Republic. The organization called the election “disappointing” and issued an official public reprimand that an OSCE spokesperson described as “unusually harsh”. In contrast, a Moscow-based organization stated that the elections were: “open and free”. Moscow’s analysis of the situation would not surprise the Christian Science Monitor’s Fred Weir, considering he colorfully characterized the final tally in favor of Bakiyev as “Sovietesque”.
The full report detailing the violations committed, primarily by the incumbent, of internationally-accepted electoral standards can be found on the OSCE website. Here is a brief summary of just some of the charges levied against the Kyrgyz Republic and the Bakiyev campaign:
*There was no clear separation between party and state
*Lack of sufficient information for voters to make an informed choice
*Weakening political opponents by attacking, arresting and intimidating supporters
*Prohibiting rivals from running political ads in the state-run media
*Obvious bias for the incumbent was displayed by the state-run media when they did cover the election
*Ballot-box stuffing and multiple voting
*Voter disenfranchisement and inaccurate voting lists
*Misuse of government administrative resources that provided incumbent unfair advantage
*Obstruction of opposition campaign events
*The election commission itself was not independent and dominated by pro-incumbent staffers
*Secrecy of the vote was not always ensured
Sadly, this election did not show the progress we were hoping for and it again fell short of key standards Kyrgyzstan has committed to as a participating State of the OSCE. The conduct of election day was a disappointment. We hope that our assessment and recommendations will be used constructively as a basis for a serious overhaul of the way elections are organized in Kyrgyzstan in the future," said Radmila Sekerinska, the Head of the election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
THE TYRANT BAKIYEV
An account in a recent New York Times article that sounds like something right out of a Robert Ludlum novel, shows what happens to those who would oppose Bakiyev:
You know what this is for,” Emilbek Kaptagaev recalled being told by the police officers who snatched him off the street. No other words, just blows to the head, then all went black. Mr. Kaptagaev, an opponent of Kyrgyzstan’s president, who is a vital American ally in the war in nearby Afghanistan, was found later in a field with a concussion, broken ribs and a face swollen into a mosaic of bruises.
Mr. Kaptagaev said that the beating last month was a warning to stop campaigning against the president, but that he would not. And so he received an anonymous call only a few days ago. “Have you forgotten?” the voice growled. “Want it to happen again?”
Ironically, the reason that Bakiyev came to power and was able to beat Askar Akayev in the 2005 election, was that voters thought he would clean up corruption and stop authoritarianism, two things that he not only continued – but perfected, because during his reign a number of opposition politicians and journalists have been prosecuted, attacked and even killed.
KYRGYZSTAN A STRATEGIC ASSET FOR U.S.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Kyrgyzstan was once known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia” during the 1990s, but things have now changed immensely, as Bakiyev craftily plays off Moscow and Washington's security interests - so he can raise the rent.
The U.S. needs Kyrgyzstan to win the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. opened an airbase there shortly after 9/11 for launching attacks against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and resupplying troops. At first Russia supported the base, but then began demanding it be closed after the invasion of Iraq.
Bakiyev planned on closing the base, but after President Obama sent a letter extolling him for helping the U.S. fight the war against Afghanistan in June, he decided to allow the U.S. military to operate out of a transit center. However, Bakiyev then tripled the U.S. rent to $60 million annually.
Bakyt Beshimov, the opposition candidate’s campaign manager, said he prayed that the U.S. would condemn the corrupt sham of an election. But he doesn't expect any harsh rhetoric to emanate from Washington because "the U.S. only seems to care about the base."