Media Contact: Sean Woo
– Helsinki Commission leaders today called for free and fair elections in Kyrgyzstan to determine who will govern that country in the aftermath of the revolution there. They called on all sides to refrain from any violence, which would only tarnish what has largely been a peaceful process up to now.
“Today the people of Kyrgyzstan have said ‘enough’ to rigged elections, official corruption and repressive rule,” said Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “Freedom is clearly on the march in Kyrgyzstan today. The new leadership must now promptly hold free and fair elections to consolidate this victory of people power,” said Brownback.
Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) seconded the call for prompt elections. “Events in Kyrgyzstan over the last few days demonstrate that the political winds, begun in Georgia and continued in Ukraine, have now spread into Central Asia. People have learned not to accept the official results of rigged elections – a lesson that all authoritarian regimes should learn as well.”
After two rounds of parliamentary elections held in February-March, which the OSCE said had not met international standards, opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan began organizing large-scale demonstrations. Beginning in the southern part of the country they took control of the major cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad remarkably quickly and between Wednesday and Thursday seized control of the capital Bishkek as well.
“The stunning speed of the government’s collapse indicated that President Akaev’s regime had no legitimacy,” said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Commission House Ranking Member. He concluded, “We must be in close touch with opposition forces urging them to respect constitutional norms and strictly uphold the rule of law.”
The Commission leaders urge President Bush to send a high-level emissary to Bishkek in anticipation of presidential and parliamentary elections. The leaders have also voiced support for a robust OSCE presence on the ground in Kyrgyzstan during this transitional period.
According to news accounts, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov has reportedly dispatched troops to the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. “Foreign military forces have no role to play in ongoing developments in Kyrgyzstan,” said Commission Chairman Brownback, “the fate of Kyrgyzstan must be in the hands of its own people.”
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.