Voters across Kyrgyzstan go to the polls today in parliamentary elections that most news reports indicate will be easily won by Ak Zhol, the party created only months ago by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Opposition parties, including Ata Meken, have claimed in recent days that authorities have ransacked their offices, beaten supporters, destroyed campaign materials, and denied their access to free public broadcasting and even paid commercial airtime.
The snap election was established last October by a constitutional referendum that was widely criticized as being rife with fraud and other irregularities. There has been some domestic debate about who will benefit most from the constitutional changes, but outside this Central Asian nation of five million persons the election results were almost universally viewed seen as consolidating the power of the presidency at the expense of the 90-member, single-chamber parliament.
This mountainous republic that borders China has been in political turmoil since the so-called Tulip Revolution removed former President Askar Akayev in March 2005.