Kyrgyzstan election: Protesters storm parliament over vote-rigging claims
Media playback is not supported on your device
Media signatureThousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the capital, Bishkek
Protesters in Kyrgyzstan calling for the country’s parliamentary elections to be canceled have broken into parliament in the capital, Bishkek.
The footage showed people in President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s office throwing paper out of windows. Parts of the building appeared to be on fire.
The break-in follows a day of clashes with the police, who first dispersed the crowd with water cannons and tear gas.
The clashes take place on charges of election fraud in last Sunday’s elections.
After the vote, only four out of 16 parties have exceeded the 7% threshold for joining parliament, three of which are closely linked to President Jeenbekov.
Opposition protesters against the results of the parliamentary elections storm a government building
Police used stun grenades on Monday to disperse thousands of protesters in Ala Too Square before following them into the nearby streets.
Protesters later flocked back to the central square before storming the parliament building known as the White House.
Video shared on social media showed opposition protesters gaining access to the complex, some by climbing fences and others by opening the main gates. Smoke could later be seen rising from the building.
The demonstrators have now started to leave the square.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Ala Too Square in Bishkek on charges of election fraud
About 120 people were reportedly injured, half of whom were law enforcement officials.
Several people are in serious condition but there have been no deaths, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The protesters also released Kyrgyzstan’s former President Almazbek Atambayev, who was being held in a State National Security Service detention center awaiting trial for corruption offenses, local news agency AKIpress reported.
Groups close to the President have been accused of buying votes and intimidating voters – claims by international observers say they are “credible” and of “serious concern”.
On Monday, 12 opposition parties jointly declared that they would not recognize the results of the vote.
President Jeenbekov’s office later said he would meet leaders of all 16 parties voting in the election on Tuesday to ease tension.
Two parties closely associated with President Sooronbai Jeenbekov each received 25% of the vote
Opposition candidates also called on the Central Election Commission to cancel the election results.
A candidate, Ryskeldi Mombekov, told more than 5,000 protesters on Monday: “The president has promised to monitor honest elections. He has not kept his word.”
Mr Mombekov’s party, Ata Meken, was confident of entering parliament, but in the end it was one of the eight parties that missed the threshold. Ata Meken leader Janar Akaev suffered a leg injury during the protests on Monday.
The protesters also called on President Jeenbekov to resign.
Thomas Boserup, head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission, said in a briefing that votes were “generally well organized” but allegations of vote-buying were a “serious problem”.
How the protests escalated
Almaz Tchoroev, BBC News, Bishkek
Police used water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas on demonstrators.
They first used violence to disperse the protesters in the main square, but when the crowd moved to other streets in Bishkek, the police continued to pursue them.
Then reports of injuries surfaced – both among the protesters and the police. An opposition leader, Janar Akaev, is among the injured.
About 5,000 people protested in Ala Too Square, and the demonstration was largely peaceful for most of the day. At around 8:10 p.m. local time (2:10 p.m. GMT), a smaller group of protesters split up and headed for the parliament building. When they got there, they reportedly tried to break through the gates.
This triggered a reaction from the police. Police said they would not interfere in the protests as long as they remained peaceful – but this was viewed as a provocative act.
The demonstrators were initially scattered, but later returned and successfully gained access to the parliament building.
The two leading parties, each receiving a quarter of the vote, were Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan.
President Jeenbekov’s younger brother, Asylbek Jeenbekov, is a member of Birimdik.
Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, is seen as closely associated with the powerful Matraimov family. The family’s figurehead, Rayimbek Matraimov, was the target of anti-corruption protests last year and is believed to have helped fund Mr Jeenbekov’s successful presidential campaign in 2017.
Late on Monday, Birimdik announced that the elections could be repeated on Sunday and urged other parties that exceeded the 7% threshold to do the same.