Polling stations across Kyrgyzstan opened on Sunday, as the Central Asian nation votes to elect its first president since the bloody uprisings that toppled former leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev last spring.
Nine independent candidates and seven representatives of different political parties are competing in Sunday’s vote. The three main figures are Almazbek Atambayev and two popular nationalist politicians, Kamchibek Tashiyev and Adakhan Madumarov.
The election will be deemed valid if voter turn-out exceeds half of the electorate. If none of the candidates garners more than 50 per cent of votes in the first round of the election on October 30, a runoff will be set between the two top candidates. According to the new Kyrgyz constitution, the president is elected for a six-year term, with no right of re-election.
The current frontrunner is the country’s former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, a wealthy businessman who promises to bring stability and prosperity to the nation.
Kamchibek Tashiyev is a former emergencies minister who has a strong support in the south of the country. The former head of the Kyrgyz Security Council, Adakhan Madumarov, is the third heavyweight candidate, who is also supported mainly by the south.
Most analysts forecast a second round of elections between Atambayev and one of the aforementioned candidates.
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.
“For the first time in our part of the world this election takes place under the incumbent president. The peaceful transmission of power is vital,” Otunbayeva said after she voted in Bishkek, as cited by 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.