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Kyrgyzstan votes for new president in historic election


Kyrgyzstan votes for new president in historic election

Image copyright Reuters

Kyrgyzstan has held a presidential election that is unusual for Central Asia because it is unpredictable.

One of the frontrunners, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, is backed by outgoing leader Almazbek Atambayev, who has reached the end of a six-year term.

He and the other favourite, Omurbek Babanov, are former prime ministers.

Western diplomats regard the vote as broadly free and fair, analysts say – although there have been reports of violations by some candidates.

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Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has remained a close ally of Moscow since independence in 1991, and hosts a Russian military base.

Its first two post-Soviet presidents were swept from power by popular discontent. The two main contenders in Sunday's poll favour continued links with Russia.

If no candidate wins outright with more than 50% of the vote, a run-off will be held.

The election been overshadowed by a row over allegations of interference from neighbouring Kazakhstan.

The current Kyrgyz president, Almazbek Atambayev, angered the Kazakh authorities by saying Mr Babanov, a businessman who made his money there, was their choice for the new president. He has denied that he is backed by them.

In response Kazakhstan tightened customs checks at the border, leading to long queues.

Kyrgyz presidents are restricted to a single six-year term under a constitution that has been in force since 2010.

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