The world is paying little note, but there is a popular uprising underway following contested elections in Kyrgyzstan, a key US ally in Central Asia. On March 20, protesters rallying against President Askar Akayev burned down police headquarters in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, in response to a pre-dawn action by special police units who briefly took back control of a regional administration office that had been occupied by opposition activists since early March. A crowd of some 20,000 soon retook the building and then marched on the police headquarters, freeing protesters detained there and setting it on fire. Protesters also occupied the airport and used trucks to dump soil and gravel on its runway, in an effort to prevent the government from flying in security reinforcements from Bishkek, the capital.
Akayev, who has been president since 1990, has pledged to step down later this year as required by the constitution, but opponents fear he plans to remain in power by amending the constitution or holding a referendum to secure another five-year term.
The current crisis was triggered by opposition claims that many of their candidates were cheated of victory in parliamentary elections held Feb. 27 and March 13. The official results gave Akayev overwhelming control of parliament.
The protesters are demanding "the resignation of president Akayev, the annulment of the results of the parliamentary election, the holding of new presidential and parliamentary elections and the freeing of all those who were arrested this morning," said Chulpan Ergesheva, head of the Jalal-Abad office of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. (LAT, March 20)
See also our last blog post on Kyrgyzstan.