International monitors expressed concern Monday over "credible allegations" of vote-buying in a parliamentary election in Kyrgyzstan, as supporters of losing parties took to the streets in protest.
Parties close to Kyrgyzstan's pro-Russian President Sooronbai Jeenbekov dominated the Sunday vote, although widespread claims of violations in their favour could stir unrest in the sometimes volatile ex-Soviet republic.
"Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections were generally well run and candidates could campaign freely, but credible allegations of vote buying remain a serious concern," said Thomas Boserup, head of the election observation mission organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Boserup also flagged that "health protocols were not always implemented consistently" in the vote that was held on schedule despite Kyrgyzstan being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases during the summer.
Birimdik and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, two factions that favour deeper integration with Moscow's Eurasian Union trade bloc, scooped a quarter of the vote each according to a preliminary count based on 98 percent of ballots cast.
The pro-presidential Kyrgyzstan party looks certain to join them with over 8 percent, while two parties led by nationalists and a party founded by a former prime minister faced a nail-biting wait with a parallel manual vote count underway.
Several parties that missed out on a place in parliament held protests Monday although the fact that that the rallies were held at different times indicates they may be unable to form a cohesive bloc to oppose the government.
- Whoops and cheers -
At one of the rallies, led by the fringe Chon-Kazat and Reforma parties that campaigned against corruption, a losing candidate pledged to "gather 20-30,000 and peacefully overthrow" the government.
The comment was met with whoops and cheers by a crowd of several hundred.
Ata-Meken, Bir Bol and Respublika -- parties that were represented in the outgoing parliament, but who failed to meet the threshold this time round -- were holding a rally that gathered a crowd of several thousand on Monday afternoon.
Birimdik includes Jeenbekov's younger brother Asylbek Jeenbekov, while Mekenim Kyrgyzstan is seen as a vehicle for the interests of the powerful Matraimov family.
Family figurehead Rayimbek Matraimov is a former customs service official who was the target of anti-corruption protests last year and is believed to have helped finance Jeenbekov's successful presidential campaign in 2017.
Surrounded by authoritarian states with rubber-stamp legislatures, elections in mountainous Kyrgyzstan offer a colourful and sometimes unpredictable contrast.
Yet with the pandemic battering paltry incomes, many warned that the stage was set for massive ballot fraud by well-resourced parties.
Moscow's dominant strategic position in Kyrgyzstan -- a landlocked country bordering China -- was not seen as being under threat regardless of the outcome of the vote.
Russia has a military base in the country and is a destination for hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrants.