BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan has created the conditions for a peaceful and largely transparent constitutional referendum but improvements are needed before parliamentary elections, the OSCE’s election monitoring arm said on Monday.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said a high voter turn-out on Sunday showed the resilience of Kyrgyz citizens and their desire to shape the future after ethnic violence this month cost hundreds of lives.
“The citizens of Kyrgyzstan turned out in large numbers to vote for a new, democratic and peaceful future for their country,” said Boris Frlec, head of the observation mission.
“It is now up to all political forces to work together to improve the electoral framework ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections and build a democratic society based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
Kyrgyzstan voted to create the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a region otherwise ruled by authoritarian presidents. About 90 percent supported constitutional change, the Central Election Commission has said.
The 56-country Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did not send observers to Osh and Jalalabad, the southern cities worst affected by the violence, because of security concerns. It had observers in other parts of the country.
The ODIHR said the Kyrgyz authorities succeeded in staffing all polling stations in troubled southern regions and efforts were made to allow internally displaced voters, who often had no identity papers, to cast their ballots.
Election officials delivered ballot boxes directly to residents of ethnic Uzbek neighbourhoods in Osh, many of whom were afraid to leave their burnt-out homes for fear of more violence.
“The pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation in parts of the south, compounded by arrests of prominent public figures of the Uzbek community, may have dissuaded some voters from casting their ballots,” the ODIHR said in a statement.
It identified some flaws in the election process, such as failure to check that voters’ thumbs had been stamped with indelible ink, an important safeguard against multiple voting.
Also, electoral commissions did not understand how to count ballots properly, or did not follow the correct procedure, it said.
Kyrgyzstan plans to hold parliamentary elections every five years, with the first in October.
Writing by Robin Paxton; editing by Andrew Dobbie