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Bakiyev set to win Kyrgyz presidency by landslide

July 10, 2005

By Dmitry Solovyov

BISHKEK (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s acting leader Kurmanbek
Bakiyev looked set for a landslide victory on Sunday in the
first presidential elections since the country’s old
post-Soviet leadership was toppled in violent protests.

Successful polls seen by international mediators as free
and fair would give the Central Asian state’s leadership the
legitimacy it urgently needs to secure order. The West would
also see it as a message to authoritarian regional neighbors.

“We can say now Kurmanbek Bakiyev has won by a landslide.
We only don’t know the precise percentage of the votes he
received,” said a Kyrgyz television presenter anchoring a press
briefing broadcast live from the central election commission.

Russia and the United States seek stability in Kyrgyzstan.
Both keep military bases there, the American complex providing
support for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Bakiyev, 55, had been a prime minister under former
president Askar Akayev, but played a key role in his overthrow
in March.

Akayev, who ruled the mountainous nation for nearly 15
years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, fled to Russia
after violent protests by opponents who saw his rule as
corrupt. They accused his administration of rigging elections.

Kyrgyzstan, which borders China, has been volatile since
the March coup. Bakiyev’s cabinet acknowledged last month it
was not in full control after a crowd seized and briefly held
the government headquarters.

Official results of Sunday’s elections are expected after 8
a.m. (0200 GMT), but an exit poll conducted by three Kyrgyz
pollsters put Bakiyev well ahead of five other hopefuls with
over 80 percent of votes.

Before the polls closed, hundreds of police and interior
troops — all in full anti-riot gear — held an exercise in the
main square nearby, in an eloquent demonstration of the new
government’s determination to protect law and order.

Staff at Bakiyev’s election campaign headquarters were
euphoric.

“Turnout was a high 73 percent today. Of these voters, a
minimum of 75 percent chose Bakiyev,” Yuruslan Doichubekov,
Bakiyev’s election campaign chief, told Reuters.

“Bakiyev’s win means that there will be no more corruption
in Kyrgyzstan, and every conscientious person will be
guaranteed a job or a business of his own.”

PLEDGES AND HOPES OF STABILITY

Casting his ballot on Sunday, Bakiyev pledged to the West
to hold honest polls and boost stability in the volatile state.

OSCE election monitors will deliver their verdict on
Monday.

The five former Soviet republics in Central Asia have a
history of flawed elections and government pressure on
opposition parties and independent media.

The leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have
all been in power since Soviet days. The president of
Tajikistan was installed in a 1992-97 civil war.

“I voted for Bakiyev,” said Salina Abdykadyrova, a shop
assistant aged 39. “There must be peace in Kyrgyzstan, then the
economy will grow, and this current lawlessness will end.”

Bakiyev’s chances were bolstered by a lack of other
prominent candidates and the fact that former security services
chief Felix Kulov, jailed under Akayev, ran in tandem with him.

There had been concerns that a race pitting Bakiyev, a
southerner, against Kulov, a northerner, could have aggravated
north-south tension in the country, which is divided by
mountains and has a large ethnic Uzbek population in the south.
(Additional reporting by Olga Dzyubenko)




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