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Anti-Government Demonstrators Protest in Kyrgyzstan


Opposition activists are protesting Wednesday, in Krygyzstan's capital, Bishkek, demanding early presidential elections and promised constitutional reform. From Moscow, VOA's Lisa McAdams reports similar protests, two years ago, descended into violence, forcing then-President Askar Akayev from office.

Police and interior ministry troops are patrolling the Kyrgyz capital, where thousands of anti-government demonstrators have converged from regions across the country to call for early presidential elections.

The protesters accuse President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of corruption and are demanding a new coalition government, with broader powers. They also want action on promised constitutional reform.

In a bid to stave off the protests, President Bakiyev made several key concessions, in recent weeks, including the appointment of a moderate opposition leader as prime minister. He also asked the opposition to join the cabinet.

But the majority of Kyrgyzstan's two main opposition parties - For Reforms and United Kyrygzstan - elected to wait out the protests and then decide where to place their support.

President Bakiyev accuses the opposition of planning a coup. In an interview broadcast on Russian television, he expressed frustration that no matter how many concessions he makes, the opposition seems unwilling to give him a chance.

Mr. Bakiyev acknowledges reforms are behind schedule. But he says a new constitution could be ready by early next year, if the ongoing political squabbles are put aside.

The Central Asian nation that is home to both an American and Russian air base has been plagued by political instability since protesters stormed the presidential palace in March, 2005, triggering days of riots and looting in the capital.

In an address to the nation on the eve of the planned protests, the president vowed to maintain calm. He says police are under strict orders to move quickly to quell any unrest, during the latest protests.

The demonstrators vow to stay in the streets, until President Bakiyev steps down.

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