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24 Jul, 2009 10:33

Kyrgyz election: president leads as rivals quit race

Official preliminary results, which currently reflect over 70% of the cast bulletins, correspond to the exit poll results, showing that current leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev has secured around 86% of the vote.

His main rival Almazbek Atambayev, however, says the landslide win is a fraud, and is urging his supporters to hold protest rallies.

OSCE observers claim they have a whole list of violations that they discovered while monitoring this election. They say there have been problems with ballot box stuffing, problems with ballot counting and that the “competition was unfair”. They also insist that current president Kurmanbek Bakiyev had used his administrative leverage.

Almost 5,000 people in all regions of the Central Asian state have been interviewed by pollsters, and the incumbent president is clearly beating his rivals outright. Despite this, European election monitors say Kyrgyzstan's presidential poll falls short of democratic standards.

International observers from CIS countries have not registered any violations during the election and consider the poll fully legitimate.

Most voters support Bakiyev, while opponent Atambayev has so far received approximately 7% of the vote.

The election was declared valid by the Central Election Commission earlier in the day, when turnout passed the 50% threshold. Final turnout data hasn’t been revealed yet, but it is known that two hours before the closure of the polls no less than 73% of the electorate had cast its vote.

According to Kyrgyz Central Election Commission, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has already gained more that 1,200,000 votes, 50,000 more than he needs to win his election.

As the voting continued there have been reports of clashes between opposition supporters and police in the town of Balykchy about 200 kilometers to the north of the country’s capital Bishkek. This coincided with the announcement of two opposition leaders, including Almazbek Atambayev, who said that they are withdrawing from the presidential race.

The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission reacted immediately by saying that their actions had been unlawful because, according to Kyrgyz law, no presidential candidate can drop out of the race on the day of the election.

Nevertheless, the opposition called people to the streets to protest and promised to transform various music concerts throughout the city into opposition rallies. However, the situation did not escalate and people stayed in the concert halls instead of taking to the streets to protest.

The final election results are to be announced on Friday evening.

Opposition candidates withdraw

Opposition presidential candidate and former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev, as well as independent candidate Zhenishbek Nazraliev, announced their withdrawal at a news conference on Thursday.

“Since we regard this election illegitimate, we refuse to take part in it,” Atambaev told journalists, adding that they had recently come across the major election process violations.

Atambaev also called for his supporters to take to the streets, if necessary, and start protesting against these violations.

Meanwhile a group of opposition supporters has been dispersed in the city of Balykchi. According to Interfax, some voters attempted to take over a polling station in the centre of the city. The opposition claims that the police used force to disperse the protest, but authorities deny this.

Nevertheless, a Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman pointed out that the “situation in the republic is calm and the election is proceeding normally.”

The country’s central election committee, however, considers the candidates’ actions to be illegal, since their withdrawal took place on polling day. The committee also points out that they have still not received from the candidates dropping out the official documents detailing so.