Nationalist Ata Zhurt leads in so-far peaceful Kyrgyz parliamentary poll

By bne IntelliNews October 11, 2010

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With over 50% of the vote counted in Kyrgyzstan's attempt to create the first parliamentary democracy in the region, five parties had gained the 5% of the vote needed to take seats in the parliament and Ata Zhurt, a nationalist party with strong support among ethnic Kyrgyz in the south of the country, was leading with 8.91% of the vote.

In second place was interim President Roza Otunbayeva's Social Democratic Party with 8.39%. Other parties to have gained seats in parliament are former prime minister Felix Kulov's Ar-Namys party - a strong critic of the move toward a parliamentary system - with 6.94%, Respublika with 6.85% and Ata-Meken with 6.08%. In all, 29 parties are competing in the election.

Perhaps of greatest import was that these parliamentary elections took place in a calm environment on October 10 with no serious violations of electoral law reported. Kyrgyzstan has been wracked by ethnic strife between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks since former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted following a popular uprising in April. Several hundred ethnic Uzbeks were killed in clashes in the south of the country over the summer, prompting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to warn of an impending civil war. Russia opposes the introduction of a parliamentary system, arguing it could open up the possibility of a power grab by Islamists, while the US is backing the move as a way to heal the ethnic divisions.

Turnout in the elections was a relatively low 52.4%, according to the Central Election Commission. Speaking to journalists late Sunday, the commission's chairman, Akylbek Sariyev, said the low figure - down from the 70-80% in elections during Bakiyev's rule - was a sign that turnout had been accurately reported.

Both the interim figures and the exit polls show that parties led by former members of the interim government, which has ruled the country since the April revolution, have gained a large share of the vote, which is likely to make forming a coalition easier. Election rules stipulate that no single party will be allotted more than 65 of the 120 seats in parliament. The seats will be distributed proportionately to those parties that pass the entry threshold.

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