News / Asia

Kyrgyz Vote in Rare Multi-Party Elections

Election commission officials wait as an elderly Kyrgyz woman, left, casts her ballot at home in the village of Kizil Birlik, 25 km (14 miles) south of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, October 29, 2011.
Election commission officials wait as an elderly Kyrgyz woman, left, casts her ballot at home in the village of Kizil Birlik, 25 km (14 miles) south of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, October 29, 2011.

Kyrgyzstan is the only nation in the world to host military bases of Russia and of the United States. Voters in this Central Asian nation are about to vote for president.

On Sunday, Kyrgyzstan undergoes a rare experience for Central Asia, multiparty elections for president. In a second rarity, no one knows who will win.

With 16 candidates in the race, a runoff vote is expected for mid-November.

Located on the western edge of China, Kyrgyzstan is one of the smallest of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. It is also the most volatile. In the last five years, two street revolutions have forced presidents to flee the country.

Since the last revolution - 18 months ago - Kyrgyzstan has been run by Roza Otunbayeva, Central Asia’s first woman president. In another break with strong-man rule, Otunbayeva plans to step down at the end of her term on December 31, becoming the first Central Asian leader to step down voluntarily since the five republics won independence at the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.

Pyotr Chernyak, a former newspaper editor in the capital, Bishkek, believes voting Sunday will be peaceful, despite some candidates crying fraud in advance.

Geography splits this mountainous nation, between north and south.  And then, ethnicity further splits the population of 5.5 million.

Last year, in Kyrgyz cities bordering Uzbekistan, rioting broke out between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. When the fight was over, about 500 people were dead, thousands were wounded and thousands of houses were in ruins.

In polls, the front-runner is Almazbek Atambayev, a northerner who resigned last month as prime minister to run for president. His opponents say he used government resources to boost his candidacy, a charge he denies.

Earlier this month, Atambayev traveled to Moscow where he met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He is the only candidate to win such an audience. Kremlin approval is key in a country where one-quarter of adult males work in Russia.

Although the southern vote is split between two strong candidates, it is unclear if Atambayev will win the 50 percent of votes needed to win on the first round.  Chernyak adds that chances of a runoff in mid-November are 50-50.

With Bishkek located about 90 minutes by cargo jet from Kabul, Afghanistan, Kyrygyzstan’s capital hosts Manas, an American-run military air transit center. At present, all NATO soldiers flying in and out of Afghanistan pass through Manas.

On the campaign trail, the top three leading candidates said they would respect the base lease, which expires in 2014. Less controversial is a Russian base on the other side of Bishkek, a legacy of Soviet days.

Valentin Bogatyrev, director of Perspectiva consulting group in Bishkek, says society is split over the impact of NATO’s planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.  He adds that some fear that it could open the door to Islamic extremism moving north.

Whoever wins the presidential elections will guide this pivotal Central Asian nation through this time of transition. The president’s term runs through the end of 2016.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid