Kyrgyzstan: polls close in election for new president

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Polling booths across the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan have closed in an election to replace sitting President Almazbek Atambayev.

Nearly 3 million citizens were able to vote for one of 11 candidates, according to the country’s electoral commission. A total of 370 observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are were in the country to monitor the election.

Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev

Sitting President Almazbek Atambayev has stepped down after serving one term in office

An historic election

Atambayev, who had promised a fair election, was not allowed to seek a second six-year term according to the constitution. It marked the first time in the former Soviet republic’s recent history that a sitting president has voluntarily left office.

The first two presidents of Kyrgyzstan after the fall of the Soviet Union were ousted by violent riots in 2005 and 2010. The country then restyled itself as a parliamentary republic, limiting presidential powers mostly to foreign policy and security issues.

Atambayev had backed his ally Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a former prime minister and experienced bureaucrat.

But observers have said Jeenbekov is likely to face a stiff challenge from oil tycoon Omurbek Babanov, also a former prime minister. The two could end up competing in a tight runoff.

Post-election unrest thwarted

The Kyrgyz national security committee said that it had arrested a group of insurgents shortly before polls opened. The group, which reportedly included a former parliamentarian, was accused of planning mass unrest after the vote.

But the Kyrgyz electoral commission had said on Saturday morning that all 2000 polling stations in the Muslim-majority country opened without any problems.

amp, ap/jm (dpa, Reuters)

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