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Police Evict Protesters from Kyrgyzstan Electoral Commission

  • Bill Gasperini

Protesters in Kyrgyzstan temporarily seized control of the main government building in the capital city Bishkek, demanding that their candidate for president be registered in next month's election there. While the incident later ended peacefully, it highlights tensions in the former Soviet republic, with the election less than a month away.

Hundreds of unarmed protesters stormed into the main Kyrgyz government office building early Friday, to demand that authorities allow their candidate to run in next month's presidential election.

The noisy crowd easily overwhelmed security guards in the action, which was reminiscent of massive street protests that swept across the impoverished Central Asian nation last March and ultimately forced the long-time president to resign.

This time police and security troops moved in quickly to regain control of the building about an hour later. By then thousands of other protesters had gathered near the building, who were also forced back.

Officials announced that the presidential candidate could not run in the July 10 election because he is not a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.

Acting Police Minister Marat Sutanilov says police acted quickly to bring the situation under control. Mr. Sutalinov said police won't let any disorder or looting happen, after forcing protesters to leave the square in front of the building and are prepared to take stronger measures if necessary.

While stressing the need to maintain public order, Mr. Sutalinov added that officials would engage in talks with the protesters to defuse the situation.

Election officials showed reporters documents that appeared to show that the candidate, Urmat Baryktabasov, had received citizenship from neighboring Kazakhstan two years ago. They say this disqualifies him from running.

The unrest highlights ongoing tension in the mountainous nation since the uprising on March 24, when mobs seized control over many different buildings in Bishkek and other cities.

Days of looting and street rioting followed until acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was named interim leader.

Mr. Bakiyev is considered the front-runner in the upcoming vote, in which six other candidates are also registered to run.

However he only took power after striking a deal with the country's other most powerful politician, former security chief Felix Kulov, under which Mr. Bakiyev will name Mr. Kulov as prime minister if he wins the vote, as expected.

The political uncertainty has led to many protest actions since March, including the occupation of the Supreme Court building, amid complaints about judicial decisions about candidates in February parliamentary elections.

Earlier this week security guards fired on market traders in the southern city of Osh, during a protest about pricing policies there. Seven people were injured in that incident.