At least 120 people have been taken to hospital with injuries in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek after clashes broke out between police and protesters over a disputed parliamentary election, health authorities said Monday.
Opposition supporters took to the streets and called for pro-Russian president Sooronbay Jeenbekov to resign after at least 10 political parties called for a re-run of Sunday’s election after widespread claims of vote-buying.
Police in Bishkek used water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse some of the protesters when they attempted to force their way through the gates of the main seat of government.
Groups of demonstrators and police clashed into the night in the streets close to the square where the protest was held, an AFP correspondent said.
A Radio Free Europe live feed showed police throwing stun grenades as they struggled to peg back protesters who appeared to have set several bins on fire in one particularly fierce exchange.
The health ministry said in a statement that 120 people were injured during the violence, around half of whom were “representatives of law enforcement”.
Several were in serious condition, the ministry said, stressing that there were no fatalities.
Jeenbekov’s office said the president would meet on Tuesday with leaders of all 16 parties that competed in the vote in a bid to defuse tensions.
Two of the parties that scored big wins in Sunday’s poll are supportive of the president’s reign – and at the centre of the vote-buying allegations.
One of them, the Birimdik party that was leading the vote with around a quarter of ballots cast according to preliminary results, said late Monday that it was open to an election re-run.
Birimdik called on other parties that crossed the seven percent threshold necessary to enter parliament to do the same.
It was not clear whether all the parties planned to attend the meeting with Jeenbekov.
The Ata-Meken party, which fell short of the seven percent threshold, said its leader Janar Akayev sustained an injury to his leg from a rubber bullet.
Party member Elvira Surabaldiyeva told AFP that they had no role in the attempt on the government building, blaming it on “provocateurs”.
“Our party will stand with the people to the end,” she said.
Mobile phone and mobile internet connections were poor or non-existent for users of major operator Megacom throughout much of the night.
Eyewitnesses told AFP that shop owners in the vicinity of the protest had begun removing goods from their stores in anticipation of possible looting.
Looting was a feature in two popular uprisings that overthrew authoritarian presidents in 2005 and 2010, but the former Soviet country has enjoyed relative stability for the last decade.
Dissatisfaction with corruption and the domination of politics by powerful clans has increased with the economic challenges of the coronavirus fallout.
Around 5,000 people gathered earlier Monday in the main Ala-Too Square to protest against the victory for pro-government parties that they said was enabled by massive violations.
Popular singers joined politicians in addressing the crowd, who responded with chants of “Jeenbekov out”.