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Preliminary Kyrgyz Poll Results Suggest Runoffs Likely

First preliminary results from this weekend's parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan indicate that runoffs will likely be held in more than half the races. In neighboring Tajikistan, where voters also went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament, bad weather is delaying the vote count.

The head of Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission, Suleyman Imanbayev, says elections to the country's 75-seat parliament will go to a second round in more than 40 constituencies.

Among the undecided key races is the race in which President Askar Akayev's daughter is running. But according to the central election chief, his son's political future is secure, after early results show he won a commanding victory in his father's home district.

Mr. Imanbayev also told journalists in the capital, Bishkek, that voting was, in his words, free and fair with no serious violations reported.

But the political opposition in Kyrgyzstan disputes that claim and about 50 opposition supporters rallied in the capital. Local news reports say scuffles broke out with government supporters who tried to tear up opposition signs. But according to reports, the rally later dissolved peacefully.

Last week, thousands of opposition demonstrators in the northern and eastern regions of the country blocked two key highways for several days to protest the barring of four leading opposition candidates from the election.

The roadblocks were removed before Sunday's voting, but in one of the districts, Kochkor, where protests broke out, more than 50 percent of voters cast their ballots against all candidates. That district is one of the areas in which a re-run election will be held.

In another region, Ton, first round voting did not take place at all after the election commission announced a delay until March 13, due to opposition demonstrations and road-blocks.

In neighboring Tajikistan, voters also went to the polls to elect 63 members to the country's lower house of parliament. But heavy snow is slowing the vote count.

Tajikistan's political opposition says there were numerous violations of election law during the voting, a claim backed up by Europe's main election watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The head of the OSCE observer mission to Tajikistan, Peter Eicher, says the election fell short of democratic standards and was marred by, what he called, large-scale irregularities.

President Emomali Rakhmonov acknowledged shortcomings in Tajikistan, but said his country was just starting the process of building a democratic state.