Initial Kyrgyz election results show Jeenbekov set for surprise outright victory

Initial Kyrgyz election results show Jeenbekov set for surprise outright victory
Sooronbay Jeenbekov is to officially take office on 1 December.
By bne IntelliNews October 16, 2017

Preliminary results of the October 15 presidential election in Kyrgyzstan show that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) representative, Sooranbai Jeenbekov, secured 55% of the vote, making him the outright winner of the election with no need for a second round.

His popular opponent Omurbek Babanov won only 34% of the vote, the initial results show. Such an outcome is in contrast to widespread expectations that neither Jeenbekov nor Babanov would break the 40% threshold required to win the election within the first round, something which would have led to a guaranteed a victory for Babanov in a second round. At the same time, a win in the first round of the elections was seen as the only chance Jeenbekov had of victory.

Jeenbekov, who has received public backing from Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, is seen by some as Atambayev’s stooge in the president's bid to continue ruling from the shadows. Atambayev is barred from running for a second term by the constitution, but he managed to push for a referendum in December 2016 which weakened the presidency in favour of the prime minister. Having his loyal SDP party control the parliamentary majority and, therefore, having the power to appoint the prime minister, and, now, having successfully got the SDP candidate elected, Atambayev might end up having sufficient leverage over Kyrgyz politics beyond his presidency.

Atambayev led a dramatic campaign to discredit Babanov in a bid to get Jeenbekov elected in the first round. The Central Election Commission issued three consecutive warnings that Babanov could be removed from the ballot for alleged violations by his campaign; Kyrgyzstan’s state security service (GKNB) detained Babanov’s ally, Kanatbek Isayev, ahead of the election for allegedly planning riots and a violent coup; and the authorities cited Babanov’s meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as evidence of Kazakhstan’s “meddling” in Kyrgyz elections, possibly implying that Babanov would rule as a foreign puppet if victorious. The election day itself was filled with negative PR and arrests, which, if amounting to substantial voter repression, might have impacted the outcome of the vote.

The voter turnout on election day in the small Central Asian nation of 6mn, amounted to 56%.

It is now up to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s (OSCE PA's) observation mission to determine whether Kyrgyzstan has more-or-less managed to carry out its commitment to democracy successfully, following its two revolutions of 2005 and 2010, which overthrew dictatorial regimes. The OSCE PA deployed 40 international observers for the poll, including 29 parliamentarians from 22 countries.

The European Union on October 9 gave a mandate to the European Commission and its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to negotiate a new political deal between the bloc and Kyrgyzstan after the election is over and done with. The new accord would replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) dating back to 1999.

The new Brussels-Bishkek "partnership" is to be based on Kyrgyzstan's "commitment to undertake reforms to strengthen democracy, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, and to promote sustainable economic development.”