OSH, Kyrgyzstan – Polls opened in Kyrgyzstan for parliamentary elections today to choose a new and empowered parliament that the government hopes will usher in a new era of democracy.
The vote comes after an exhausting year of political turbulence and ethnic violence in the south.
Security has been tightened for the vote in the Central Asian nation in a bid to prevent any possible outbreaks of unrest.
Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a strategically vital U.S. air base near Afghanistan, is set to embrace a parliamentary system of governance. This marks a sharp departure from the strongman model exercised under President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April amid violent public demonstrations.
President Roza Otunbayeva said Saturday that the elections will be held in a spirit of fairness and transparency.
All eyes were on the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad, where violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in June left more than 400 people dead, most of them Uzbeks, and displaced about 400,000 people.
Truckloads of police drove into Osh throughout the night, boosting the presence of security forces in the city.