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12:42, 12 October 2017

The Guardian: Kyrgyzstan set for 'freest and fairest election in Central Asian history'

AKIPRESS.COM - In a region known for ageing autocrats and rigged elections, Kyrgyzstan is a strange anomaly, The Guardian reported.

Kyrgyzstan has experienced two revolutions in the past 12 years and is now a chaotic but functioning democracy, the report says.

A dozen contenders will take part in Sunday’s presidential vote, and the two leading contenders both say they expect to win. One is a former prime minister and the choice of the outgoing president, and the other is a charismatic businessman who promises more economic opportunities for the impoverished country. Bishkek is plastered with billboards promoting various candidates, and the leading candidates draw thousands of people to their rallies.

“This will be the freest and fairest election in central Asian history,” said a senior western diplomat based in the country. “Elsewhere in the region the only intrigue is whether the ruling president will get 99% or 105% of the vote, while here we really don’t know who is going to win.”

Kyrgyzstan is one of the five central Asian “stans”, former Soviet republics that achieved independence in 1991. The other four have seen overbearing personality cults and leaders who only leave office when they die, but Kyrgyzstan is the outlier. The 2005 “tulip revolution” ousted Askar Akayev as president, and his successor Kurmanbek Bakiyev was unseated in a violent uprising in 2010.

After the second revolution, the constitution was changed to allow presidents a single, six-year term. Almazbek Atambayev won the 2011 election and is now preparing to step down. If all goes well, the vote to decide his successor will be the first time in the country’s history that one democratically elected president has handed power peacefully to another.

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