Five Kyrgyz Parties pass Election Threshold

    By Robin Paxton
    Five parties passed the threshold on Monday to win seats in Kyrgyzstan's new parliament after a landmark election aimed at shifting the strategic Central Asian nation away from failed authoritarian rule.
    Kyrgyzstan is trying to form the first parliamentary democracy in a region dominated by post-Soviet strongmen, only four months after more than 400 people were killed in the country's worst bloodshed in modern history.
    Ata Zhurt, a party with strong support among ethnic Kyrgyz in the south of the country, held a narrow lead with 88 percent of votes counted, the Central Election Commission said.
    Sunday's election passed without violence and only minor reports of fraud. More than half of the electorate cast their ballots.
    "We have not known such elections for the last two decades," President Roza Otunbayeva said in a televised address. "We can be proud of the fact that these elections were completely different to those we have seen before."
    Otunbayeva came to power after a popular revolt in April toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition leader who had taken over after his predecessor was chased from office by street protesters in 2005.
    The Commission said that five parties out of the 29 which contested the polls had won more than five percent of the nationwide vote and more than 0.5 percent in each of the country's regions, the minimum requirement to enter parliament.
    After nearly 20 years of authoritarian rule since the collapse of the Soviet Union, interim leaders want to empower a prime minister to bridge political and ethnic rifts in the impoverished country of 5.3 million people.
    Election rules stipulate that no single party will be allotted more than 65 of the 120 seats in parliament. The seats will be distributed proportionately to those parties that pass the entry threshold.
    Outside support
    The United States, which operates a military air base in the country to support the war in Afghanistan, has vocally supported the plan to create the region's first parliamentary democracy.
    Russia, which also has an air base in Kyrgyzstan, is an opponent of the parliamentary model, arguing it could expose the country to more violence or a power grab by Islamist militants as rival factions vie for influence.
    Ata Zhurt had 8.6 percent of the vote as of 10 a.m. (12 a.m. ET). The Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, led by Almazbek Atambayev, was a close second with 8.0 percent.
    The Ar-Namys party of former prime minister Felix Kulov, which has been a fierce critic of the parliamentary model of government and has campaigned on a platform of close relations with Russia, was third in the vote with a 7.1 percent share.
    Kulov won many votes among ethnic Uzbeks in the southern city of Osh, epicenter of the June violence, according to Reuters.