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Kyrgyz Opposition Seizes Government Buildings in Protest

Kyrgyzstan's political opposition has taken control of government headquarters in the country's second largest city, Osh, Monday as discontent over recent parliamentary elections grows.

By midday Monday, at least 2,000 protesters were in control of the regional administrative building in Osh. Others gathered in the central square, calling for President Askar Akayev's resignation after 15 years in power.

Police did not intervene to stop the demonstrators, as they stormed the complex in protest over recent opposition losses to the ruling party in elections, which were widely viewed as flawed by the West.

The opposition has staged similar protests in at least eight other cities and towns over the past few weeks. The biggest ongoing rally is in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, where about 15,000 demonstrators earlier clashed with police and seized the airport.

The Director of Moscow's Heritage Foundation, Yevgeni Volk, told VOA the situation is volatile.

"It's still not very clear whether it will develop into a massive protest and it will be successful or, at the present stage, the powers will be able to suppress it," he said. "But even if they succeed in suppressing the movement, it doesn't mean that the problem will be solved."

Mr. Volk says Kyrgyzstan's opposition is calling for urgent talks with the Akayev government. But there has been no immediate response to that request. There are also reports that some opposition members are divided over whether to continue to call for talks, or just to call for Mr. Akayev's resignation.

The president of the Political Foundation think tank in Moscow, Vyacheslav Nikonov, says the demonstrations bring to mind recent election protests in Georgia and Ukraine, which ultimately led to the ouster of long-time Soviet leaders in those countries.

Mr. Nikonov hesitated to characterize current events in Kyrgyzstan as a full-blown revolution. But he said he does not rule it out as a very real possibility, if negotiations fail to materialize. He also said on Radio Mayak he would not be surprised to see the government institute a state-of-emergency in Kyrgyzstan in order to try and stem the unrest from spreading North to the capital, Bishkek.

Residents of the south have long resented what they see as the north's political and economic dominance.

Prior to the elections, Mr. Akayev warned against what he called revolutionary tendencies in mostly Muslim Kyrgyzstan. He said it was more likely to result in a civil war, than with the opposition coming to power.

The elections are seen as a key indicator of upcoming presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan scheduled for this fall.