Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Friday, 21 December 2007

Kyrgyz MPs meet amid controversy

By Natalia Antelava
Central Asia correspondent, BBC News

Krygyz MPs collecting their papers, 20/12
The president said it was the country's cleanest election

Kyrgyzstan's newly-elected parliament has met for the first time, amid growing tension surrounding the conduct and result of Sunday's election.

As the new parliament convened in the capital, Bishkek, opposition leaders vowed to stage a nationwide protest over the conduct of the vote.

The country's main opposition party, Ata Meken, go no seats despite attracting more than 8% of the vote.

The US has said Kyrgyz leaders failed to honour fair election commitments.

Ata Meken did not gain any representation in the legislature because it failed to pass a regional barrier, according to which every party must win 0.5% of the vote in each region.

Earlier this week the Supreme Court eased the regional barrier requirement but Ata Meken, election officials say, still failed to win the required 600 votes in the southern city of Osh.

Map of Kyrgyzstan

The party's leaders say they have copies of ballots proving that at least 3,000 people voted for them in Osh.

More than 50 of their supporters are now on hunger strike and party leaders say that they will stage demonstrations.

It was street protests triggered by a fraudulent parliamentary election in 2005 that ousted the former leader, Askar Akayev.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev swept into power promising to bring an end to government corruption and cronyism.

But his former allies said this election showed Mr Bakiyev had become just as corrupt as his predecessor, and possibly more autocratic.

Backing the opposition's complaints, European observers and the US said the poll was marred by fraud.

But the president, whose party won an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament, said it was the cleanest election the country had ever seen.

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