It may not be a Rose or Orange Revolution, but Kyrgyzstan’s opposition activists say their four-day protest in defense of former diplomats’ right to run for parliament is a sign that voters will hold the government to its promise of a free and fair vote in next month’s parliamentary poll.
The protests have certainly made an impression on Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, who plainly is concerned that the approaching election could spur the type of burgeoning protests that toppled the established political orders in Georgia and Ukraine.
Beginning January 7, about 150 people, wearing yellow and pink protest scarves, and carrying posters calling on Akayev’s administration to observe voting rights, picketed parliament, and later, government buildings in downtown Bishkek. They were protesting authorities’ refusal to register ex-ambassadors as candidates in the country’s February 27 elections. Spurring the protests was a Bishkek electoral district committee’s January 6 refusal to register Roza Otunbaeva, a onetime foreign minister, and leader of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) movement, one of Kyrgyzstan’s five main opposition groupings.
On January 10, opposition members called off their protests to await a parliamentary hearing on the election law that could conceivably lead to Otunbaeva’s candidacy being reinstated. Candidates have until January 17 to register for the elections.
Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov stated that Kyrgyzstan would not be able to avoid violence if the opposition continues with public demonstrations or embarks on a civil disobedience initiative.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
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Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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