Voters in Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on November 28 in the Central Asian nation's fourth vote in a little over a year.
As of 2 p.m. local time, the Central Election Committee (BShK) reported that just over 16 percent of voters had cast ballots, 12 percent less than the number of voters who had cast ballots by the same time in the October 4, 2020, parliamentary elections.
Just days before the parliamentary elections, authorities announced that they had arrested 15 people for allegedly plotting to stage a coup after the vote.
Street protests have sparked government ousters three times in the past two decades, including after disputed parliamentary elections last year that swept the current president, Sadyr Japarov, to power after he was sprung from prison.
Japarov organized a presidential election and concurrent referendum changing the constitution to grant more power to the presidency, in a move critics say amounted to a power grab.
The latest elections are a repeat of the failed parliamentary vote held in October last year that was quickly annulled by the Central Election Committee (BShK) amid chaotic protests over alleged campaign violations and unfair voting practices.
SEE ALSO: Kyrgyzstan Holds Elections Once Again Amid Concerns Of Voter Burnout
Twenty-one parties and hundreds of district candidates are competing for 90 seats in the single-chamber parliament, or Jogorku Kenesh.
Only five parties taking part in the election were on last year's ballot: Ata-Meken (Fatherland), Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan), Yyman Nuru (Ray of Faith), the Social Democrats, and Ordo (the Center).
Ballots will be cast at 2,435 polling stations in Kyrgyzstan as well as at 59 sites in 29 countries, including 20 in Russia, where many Kyrgyz migrant laborers work.
Some 730 international observers, including 288 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), are accredited to monitor the vote.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
On November 26, Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) announced the arrest of 15 suspects in an alleged coup plot.
SEE ALSO: Kyrgyz Officials Announce Detention Of Alleged Coup Plotters Ahead Of Elections
The committee said the alleged plotters included lawmakers in the Jogorku Kenesh and former high-ranking officials but did not identify any suspects. It said pretrial proceedings had been initiated on charges that the suspects violently attempted to overthrow the government.
A spokesman for the intelligence service, Kumushbek Shabdanov, said the suspects had recruited about 1,000 people and were preparing for a postelection riot.
Officials said mass riots were part of the plan and that a search turned up weapons, ammunition, and drugs.
Japarov's critics have said the head of state is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors by targeting potential rivals and expanding his powers.
In April, Japarov pushed through constitutional changes in a referendum that granted sweeping powers to the presidency.
Last month, he fired the cabinet and merged the positions of prime minister and head of the president's office.
With the passing of the new constitution, the powers of parliament were reduced and the judiciary came under the influence of the president.
Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military base and looks to neighboring China for loans and investments.
Experts say it is unclear how the Kremlin views the new government. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the street protests and sudden overthrow of then-President Sooronbay Jeenbekov as a 'misfortune."
With reporting from AFP
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036