Kyrgyzstan votes in closely fought presidential battle, second-round likely

Kyrgyzstan votes in closely fought presidential battle, second-round likely

Central Asia’s only real democracy will vote in presidential elections today, but none of the two leading candidates is likely to clinch a majority. The two frontrunners in the 13-candidate field are both former prime ministers. Technocrat Sooronbay Jeenbekov is a proxy of outgoing socialist president, Almazbek Atambayev. The best hope for the opposition is Omurbek Babanov,

Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election

Photo: AFP

Central Asia’s only real democracy will vote in presidential elections today, but none of the two leading candidates is likely to clinch a majority.

The two frontrunners in the 13-candidate field are both former prime ministers. Technocrat Sooronbay Jeenbekov is a proxy of outgoing socialist president, Almazbek Atambayev. The best hope for the opposition is Omurbek Babanov, a young industrialist.

A peaceful political transition—a first for Kyrgyzstan in the post-Soviet era—will improve investor confidence in the landlocked country.

While Russia’s historic influence is palpable, the impoverished country’s future is more closely tied to neighbouring China. Since 2005, Chinese trade has quadrupled from $45 million to over $1 billion; Beijing’s $1 trillion Belt Road initiative is set to strengthen these ties.

Both candidates are pro-Russian, but Mr Babanov’s business background suggests he may be better placed to take advantage of Chinese investment. On the other hand, the status quo candidate, Sooronbay, is likely to make the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union a first priority for the country.

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