Kyrgyzstan’s political reboot
The vote is the first presidential election in the Central Asian nation since a bloody uprising toppled former leader Kurmanbek Bakiev last spring.
Atambaev, a wealthy businessman who has been serving as Kyrgyzstan’s acting prime minister since December 2010, has promised to bring stability and prosperity to the impoverished former Soviet republic.
Nine independent candidates and seven representatives of different political parties took part in Sunday’s vote. Atambaev’s main competitors are two popular nationalist politicians, Kamchibek Tashiev and Adakhan Madumarov.
Six of the opposition candidates issued a statement declaring that the election featured multiple legal violations.
According to the new Kyrgyz constitution, the president is elected for a six-year term, with no right to reelection.
Tashiyev is a former emergencies minister who has strong support in the south of the country. Madumarov, the former head of the Kyrgyz Security Council, is also supported mainly by the south.
These elections signal Kyrgyzstan's first peaceful transition to a new government in its post-Soviet history. The interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, is not running for the presidency. She will step down later this year to make way for the winner.
"For the first time in our part of the world, this election takes place under the incumbent president. The peaceful transfer of power is vital," Otunbayeva said after she voted in Bishkek, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Kyrgyzstan has seen waves of political unrest and clashes over the past year. In April 2010, at least 90 people were killed in the capital in the unrest that ousted Kurmanbek Bakiev. It led to massive ethnic clashes in the south of the country that left more than 400 people dead.