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Kyrgyz body annuls parliamentary vote results after violent protests

Kyrgyzstan's electoral body has annulled the results of a disputed parliamentary vote after thousands of people protesting the results of Kyrgyzstan’s legislative elections seized the Central Asian country’s parliamentary and presidential compound in the capital, Bishkek.

The Central Electoral Commission said in a statement that it had “invalidated the election results” amid angry protests instigated by allegations of mass vote fraud.

Protesters broke through the main gate of the compound — which also houses the country’s security headquarters — with trucks on Tuesday morning, taking it over as security guards left their posts, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Other reports said the key government building, which is known as the White House, was set afire by the protesters.

The rioters also released from custody former president Almazbek Atambayev, who had been sentenced to a long prison term in August on corruption allegations after falling out with Kyrgyzstan’s current President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Atambayev was being held in a detention center of the State Committee for National Security when he was released by the protesters.

Meanwhile, President Jeenbekov’s whereabouts are unknown, with Moscow-based Sputnik News citing his spokesman as claiming that he remained in Bishkek. Sputnik also reported that the president planned to meet with the leaders of political parties contesting the election results on Tuesday, and that he did not rule out annulling the election results.

Jeenbekov has said that some political forces tried to seize power illegally overnight and called on the leaders of political parties to “calm down their supporters”.

All presidential staff and lawmakers had left the compound prior to midnight local time, according to witnesses, who said a convoy of cars left the parliament building a few minutes before protests on Monday night turned violent.

More than 600 people were reportedly injured during Monday’s protests.

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry also confirmed the death of one person in Bishkek riots.

The protests came in response to what many in the country regarded as rigged parliamentary polls, in which two establishment parties swept all the votes. Most of the participants in the protests were reportedly members of the more than 10 political parties that did not win any seats in the legislature, demanding the annulment of the poll results and the holding of repeat elections.

The opposition parties have also accused government officials of using administrative resources and engaging in vote buying.

Opposition claims seizure of power, president remains defiant

Opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan declared later on Tuesday that they had seized power in the country after overtaking control of key government buildings in the capital and that they were already discussing the line-up of a provisional government.

President Jeenbekov was cited in local reports as saying that the country was facing an attempted coup d’etat, but ordered security forces not to open fire on protesters.

“In order to avoid bloodshed, I have ordered the security forces not to open fire. Until now, we have taken all measures to prevent the situation from escalating. Peace in the country and stability in society are above the parliamentary mandate”, the head of state said.

It was not clear what role, if any, the released former president Atambayev would receive as Jeenbekov showed no immediate signs of relinquishing power, although the central election commission annulled the results of the October 4 election following the massive protests.

The decision to cancel the poll results was made in order to “prevent tension” in the country, according to a report by Interfax news agency citing the head of the Election Commission Nurzhan Shaildabekova.

Moreover, several opposition politicians called on the outgoing lawmakers to appoint a provisional cabinet in order to legitimize a transfer of power.

Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliyev did not show up for work on Tuesday, according to a ministry spokesman, who added that Kursan Asanov, an opposition politician and a former senior security official, had taken over as acting interior minister.

Protesters also released several former senior officials jailed under Jeenbekov, including ex-prime minister Sapar Isakov and Atambayev’s former chief of staff Farid Niyazov.

Local media reports also announced the resignation of a number of provincial governors following similar protest rallies on Tuesday in several provincial centers.

Jeenbekov’s supporters, meanwhile, were reported to have gathered in the southern city of Osh, where his brother, Asylbek Jeenbekov, called for unity and order.

The Russian Embassy to Kyrgyzstan also released a statement saying that it supported resolving the political upheaval through legal means while ensuring people’s safety and domestic stability.

Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian air base and a massive Canadian-controlled gold mine. The country’s second-largest gold deposit of Jeruy was shut down by unidentified people on Tuesday, according to its Russian-owned operator.

An estimated 6,000 people took part in the protest rally in the capital’s central square on Monday, which was dispersed by police forces before erupting again later in the evening and eventually leading to the storming of the White House.

Protests were also held in the three regional centers of Talas, Naryn, and Karakol on Monday.

Meanwhile, opposition groups have reportedly appointed their own acting head of national security and acting prosecutor general, although it was unclear how much actual power they wielded.

The Central Asian country of 6.5 million has a history of political instability. In the past 15 years, two of its presidents have been toppled in revolts.

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