Kyrgyzstan's winning presidential candidate pledges to continue Atambayev's reforms

Fading tulips Kyrgyz presidential vote comes amid rising authoritarianism

According to Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission, more than half of Kyrgyzstan's 3.025 million eligible voters took part in Sunday's presidential elections.

Only for the highest post in the country claim 11 candidates.

AKIpress reports that 2,375 polling stations are open from 8 am to 8 pm local time.

The central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan will choose a new president on Sunday in elections that are unusual in the region for being unpredictable. The voter turnout was 55.83%, or 1.7 million people.

Observers, citing pre-election polls, had predicted on Sunday that none of the candidates would clear the 50 percent threshold for outright victory, and that Mr. Jeenbekov and Mr. Babanov would then compete in a runoff. A total of 370 observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were in the country to monitor the election. It marked the first time in the former Soviet republic's recent history that a sitting president has voluntarily left office.

One of the front runners, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, is backed by outgoing leader Almazbek Atambayev, who is reaching the end of a six-year term.

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The first two leaders since the fall of the Soviet Union 25 years ago were removed following riots in 2005 and 2010, but the mainly Muslim nation has since changed its parliamentary system.

While Atambayev was able to strengthen some executive powers a year ago, he refrained from trying to hold onto power and instead backed Jeenbekov, a close ally and experienced bureaucrat.

Jeenbekov's Social Democratic party and Babanov's Fatherland party have been the largest and second-largest factions in the Kyrgyz parliament since elections in 2015.

Atambayev and his cabinet have also accused Kazakhstan, a bigger and wealthier neighbor, of backing Babanov - which both Babanov and the Kazakh government deny.

Both Jeenbekov and Babanov have said they consider Russian Federation - where hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrant laborers work - a strategic partner.

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