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No clear mandate from Kyrgz voters

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan appeared to be headed for political stalemate Monday after no single party emerged a clear winner in this weekend’s parliamentary elections.

Confounding expectations, the nationalist Ata-Zhurt party pulled ahead with around 8.7 percent of eligible votes with around nine-tenths of ballots counted. The other four parties that appear to have reached the 5-percent threshold of votes required to enter parliament are trailing slightly.

Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a vital U.S. air base near Afghanistan, voted Sunday under a new constitution, approved in June, which gives parliament the power to approve a government and appoint a prime minister. That model sets the country apart from the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where power is usually held in the hands of authoritarian leaders.

But with Ata-Zhurt and other opponents of the new constitution faring well in the elections, it seems increasingly likely those changes could now be reversed.

Confusingly, the Central Election Commission provided information on the percentage of votes based not on ballots cast but on the overall number of eligible voters. The turnout was around 55 percent from the country’s 2.8 million eligible voters.

The other anti-constitution parties, pro-Russia Ar-Namys and business-friendly Respublika, look set to be among the only other four parties to enter parliament, with 7.3 percent and 7.1 percent of eligible votes respectively.

Although those three parties share a common dislike for the parliamentary model, they agree on little else and any coalition arrangements among them would likely be strained.

Election officials said the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, which was a main backer of the public revolt that swept former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev from power in April, was in second place with 8.1 percent of the ballots cast.

Socialist-leading Ata-Meken, which also backed Bakiyev’s ouster and had been seen as the most likely winner of the election, was faring miserably with only 5.8 percent of the eligible vote.

The vote came after an exhausting year of political turbulence and ethnic violence. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April amid violent public demonstrations over stagnant living standards and corruption. Clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in the south of the country in June left more than 400 people dead, most of them Uzbeks, and displaced around 400,000 people.


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