Kyrgyz opposition unites ahead of election

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BISHKEK, Oct 24 (Reuters) Kyrgyzstan's fragmented opposition today united ahead of a parliamentary election in December, accusing President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of trying to form a ''dictatorship''.

Kyrgyzstan's last parliamentary election in 2005 led to violent opposition protests that toppled long-serving leader Askar Akayev and brought Bakiyev to power.

Bakiyev set a snap parliamentary election for December 16 after the Central Asian state approved a new constitution in an October 21 referendum that extended presidential power and drew criticism from the United States.

''We are uniting in light of Bakiyev's growing dictatorship,'' said opposition politician Kubatbek Baibolov.

The opposition condemned the constitution as authoritarian and full of loopholes. Bakiyev gained more leeway in picking key officials, as well as other powers, through the vote. He has justified the referendum as a step towards more law and order in the unstable Muslim state.

The opposition is spearheaded by Omurbek Tekebayev, a fierce critic of Bakiyev who resigned as parliament speaker last year after calling the Kyrgyz leader a dog.

His united Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party will be the chief rival to Ak Zhol, the main pro-presidential party, in the election.

''Political parties have not had enough time to prepare for this election,'' Tekebayev said.

''The five percent barrier (to win representation in parliament) is very high, that is why we need to unite.'' Kyrgyzstan, home to US and Russian military bases, has been unstable since 2005. A new wave of unrest in the strategic nation would be a worry to both Russia and the West.

In the referendum, voters also backed separate amendments to change the election process from a single-constituency system to a proportional all-party list, and to raise the number of deputies.

The country's government resigned earlier today in line with requirements set by the new constitution.

Bakiyev has said the prime minister and his cabinet will retain their seats in an acting capacity until a new parliament is elected.

The chamber will then propose a new government lineup for Bakiyev's approval.

REUTERS AE KN2124

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