July 10, 2005

Revolutionary Bakiyev wins Kyrgyz poll by landslide

By Dmitry Solovyov

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's acting leader Kurmanbek
Bakiyev has been elected president in a landslide victory which
he will claim as a unanimous endorsement of the "People's
Revolution" he led in March.

The West had repeatedly urged the ex-Soviet state of 5
million to hold free and fair polls to add legitimacy to its
new leadership and set a good example of democracy for
authoritarian regional neighbors.

The elections were called to find a successor to veteran
leader Askar Akayev, who ruled Kyrgyzstan for nearly 15 years
but fled to Russia on March 24 after violent protests sparked
by flawed parliamentary polls.

"Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev has won the first place with
88.9 percent of all the ballots cast," central election
commission head Tuigunaaly Abdraimov told a news briefing,
summing up the results of Sunday's presidential election.

Bakiyev, 55, a prime minister under Akayev who later joined
the opposition and played a key role in the protests, scored a
resounding win over five other hopefuls.

His Soviet-style margin of victory may raise eyebrows in
the West. International observers were due to give their
verdict on the polls later on Monday.

But local democracy groups said it simply reflected
widespread support for Akayev's overthrow.

"This is in fact a stunning win. This is just what had to
be proven -- it was really a people's revolution supported by
the whole nation," Edil Baisalov, head of the Coalition for
Democracy and Civil Society, told Reuters.


Akayev and other Central Asian leaders had repeatedly
accused "foreign forces" of attempts to export "velvet
revolutions" that propelled West-leaning liberals to power in
ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia.

Kyrgyz liberals argue that it was abject poverty and
deep-rooted corruption that pushed the nation to revolt.

"These are not the votes cast for a certain person, but a
unanimous rejection of the past," Baisalov said.

"This is not just what Bakiyev personally scored. This is a
bad mark given to the old regime."

While Bakiyev's cabinet has yet to prove its democratic
credentials, his victory may unsettle Central Asia's other four
former Soviet states, where dissent is muzzled and none has
held an election judged free or fair by the West.

Kyrgyzstan itself has been volatile since the March
revolution, and Bakiyev's cabinet acknowledged last month it
was not in full control after a crowd seized and briefly held
the government headquarters.

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, a southerner, ran in tandem with former security
services chief Felix Kulov, jailed under Akayev, who comes from
the north. Analysts have said their union can boost stability
in the nation divided by mountain ridges and regional

The central election commission said Bakiyev's vote result
was based on 95 percent of all the ballots counted. It said
turnout in Sunday's polls was 74.6 percent.