Kyrgyzstan has been plunged into chaos this week after parliamentary election results on Monday led to wide-scale protests throughout the country, which have seen the prime minister resign as a result.
Protests began as soon as the results were announced and quickly became violent, with protesters storming the parliament building and setting parts of it on fire. “By 9 o’clock there were the sounds of explosions and grenades,” said journalist and writer Caroline Eden in our interview with her, who has been watching the protests unfold from the capital city Bishkek.
One group managed to break into prison and release former president President Atambayev from jail, where he was serving a sentence for corruption. Hundreds have been injured in the protests and one person has died.
Many in the country felt the elections were irrelevant even before they took place, and some had called for them to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic. Despite this, the elections went ahead but arguments between the current and former leaders of the governing Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan meant that the party did not take part, with many smaller splinter groups taking its place.
In the event, just four parties on the ballot managed to get a big enough share of the vote to win some of the 120 seats in parliament that were up for grabs. The party that won the smallest number of seats – just 13 – was the only one of the four that were in opposition to the incumbents.
The Central Electoral Commission annulled the result a day later.
Listen to Eden’s interview in full about the atmosphere on the ground and what it all means for freedoms in the country.