Atambaev set to become Kyrgyz president

By bne IntelliNews October 31, 2011

Clare Nuttall in Bishkek -

Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev looks set to win outright in the first round of the country's October 30 presidential elections. But even before polls closed, rival candidates said they may challenge the result as allegations of vote buying and misuse of state resources surfaced.

As of early this morning, Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission had received preliminary results from almost all the country's polling stations. With 95.43% of ballots cast in counted, Atambaev had 62.88% of the vote. This takes him well past the 50% threshold needed to win the election in the first round. His closest rivals, Adakhan Madumarov of Butun Kyrgyzstan party and Kamchibek Tashiev of Ata-Zhurt, had just 14.91% and 14.43% respectively. None of the other 13 candidates had taken more than 1% of the vote.

Atambaev, who has served as PM since the formation of the coalition government in December 2010, is primarily popular in northern Kyrgyzstan, but he has won support across the country by raising salaries for teachers, doctors and other government workers, and increasing living allowances for students. He is also Moscow's preferred candidate and is expected to take Kyrgyzstan into the Customs Union founded by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Accusations fly

There are already allegations of misuse of state resources by Atamabaev and other candidates, and several instances of electoral fraud, bribery and pressure put on students to vote for particular candidates have been reported.

Mamadurov and Tashiev, who both have their main power bases in south Kyrgyzstan, said in the run-up to the election that they would challenge the result if the election was unfair. While Atambaev was widely expected to take the largest share of the vote in the first round, they had hoped to force a second round, which would most likely have seen Atambaev running against one of the southern candidates. "If I lose an honest and transparent election, I will recognise my defeat... If the result of the election is falsified, there will be a huge scandal," Tashiev told journalists on October 28, though added that any protests against the result would stay within the law.

Early reports from election observers confirm irregularities in the election. Zina Abdirasulova, coordinator of the "I think. I vote. There is future!" campaign, said that observers from both Kyrgyzstani and international missions were banned from many polling stations. Abdirasulova told a press conference in Bishkek this morning that Tashiev supporters had offered bribes of 200 som ($4) and more to voters in Talas, while bribes were also alleged to have been offered by supporters of Atambaev in the southern Batken region.

Ainura Usupbekova, general director of Bishkek-based monitoring group Taza Shailoo, said that many voters, especially in Jalal-abad region, voted without receiving voters marks - the indelible ink marks put on people's thumbs after they had cast their vote to prevent repeat voting.

Meanwhile reports that Tashiev was unable to cast his vote when he arrived at a polling station in the village of Aral in Naryn region without his passport. "Mr. Tashiev was indignant that he didn't get a ballot paper and left without voting at this polling station," the Kyrgyzstani newswire quotes a local electoral commission officer as saying.

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