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    Kyrgyzstan holds early parliamentary elections

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    Kyrgyzstan holds on Sunday early parliamentary elections expected to hand President's Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party a clear victory and end two years of political upheaval in the ex-Soviet state.

    BISHKEK, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - Kyrgyzstan holds on Sunday early parliamentary elections expected to hand President's Kurmanbek Bakiyev's party a clear victory and end two years of political upheaval in the ex-Soviet state.

    Bakiyev called the early vote in October, after changing the Constitution in a referendum that strengthened his powers, and establishing his own party Ak Zhol. In line with the new Constitution, the Kyrgyz 90-seat parliament will be elected from party lists for the first time in the country's history. An election threshold of 5% has been set.

    Bakiyev's opponents say constitutional changes and the early parliamentary elections have been initiated by the president to usurp power in the republic and backtrack on democracy. Bakiyev's supporters say the new system is more democratic.

    The political situation in Kyrgyzstan has been unstable since 2005 when disputed parliamentary elections triggered mass protests that ousted the longtime leader Askar Akayev and brought Bakiyev to power.

    The opposition is accusing Bakiyev of failing to improve living standards, curb corruption and bring democracy. The opposition has also accused the republic's authorities of plotting "large-scale vote rigging" at the parliamentary elections.

    Polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. GMT) and will close at 20:00 p.m. (14:00 p.m. GMT). Preliminary results are expected to be announced on Monday.

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