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Kyrgyzstan: Bakiev Wins Election By Landslide

Voting on 10 July Bishkek, 11 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev has won a landslide victory in the country's presidential poll. Kyrgyz election officials declared Bakiev the winner as they announced that preliminary results show he won 88.9 percent of the vote with 95 percent of all ballots counted. The election officials put turnout at 74.6 percent.

Kokumbai Turusbekov, a member of the Central Election Commission, told RFE/RL that acting President Bakiev won the support of just under 90 percent of the voters.

"At the moment, the winner is Kurmanbek Salievich Bakiev," Turusbekov said. "[He got] 88 percent of all voters who participated in the polls. The turnout was 74 percent. Basically, we can say the elections are valid."

Bakiev has headed Kyrgyzstan's interim government since former President Askar Akaev fled into exile in the face of massive demonstrations in March.

Much of Bakiev's support came from the country's south, his home region. He got some 95 percent of the votes in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad. Turnout in those cities was also the highest in the poll at just under 90 percent.

His support in Kyrgyzstan's northern regions was lower, some 75 percent. But analysts say that percentage is still very high for a country where the south-north political divide is often a major factor in voting.

Bakiev had sought to appeal to both north and south by creating a joint ticket with prominent politician Feliks Kulov, who hails from the north. Kulov had been considered Bakiev's main rival following the ouster of Akaev. But the two men made a pre-election alliance to pool their forces. They agreed that if Bakiev won the presidency, Kulov would become prime minister.

Observers say the alliance almost certainly helped Bakiev win the support of the northern regions. However, turnout was lower in northern regions -- between 60 and 70 percent in different regions -- despite the fact that northern voters have been most active in previous polls.

Edil Baisalov, the head of Kyrgyzstan's largest civic group, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, said Bakiev's win is a victory of the March revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

Speaking to journalists in Bishkek on 11 July, he said the vote results should be seen a protest against the old regime rather than purely as support for Bakiev.

"Those 88 percent Bakiev got legitimize and prove the 24 March events," Baisalov said. "But [voters trusted] Bakiev and his team in advance. In fact, it wasn't a vote for Bakiev, it was a vote against the previous regime. The people thus expressed what they didn't like and refused to have. They refused to have corruption, authoritarianism, and follow old rules of the game."

The Central Election Commission reports that another presidential candidate, the country's ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu came second in the race. He got some 3.8 percent of votes, mainly in his native south where he is popular and enjoys wide support.

There was little doubt ahead of the 11 July poll about its outcome, since Bakiev was widely seen as the clear front-runner. But there had been some questions about turnout. A high turnout was considered necessary to give the new government a strong popular mandate to stabilize the country following political unrest seen since Akaev's ouster.

Election monitoring groups are expected soon to declare whether they regard the election as free and fair.

The Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, which had the largest group of local monitors, has reported minor violations and errors by electoral officials at polling stations.

Another monitoring group, the Mission of the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), also reported some violations despite a general improvement in election processes in Kyrgyzstan. The ENEMO is a group of 17 civic organizations from 16 countries of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe.

Peter Novotny, head of the ENEMO Mission in Kyrgyzstan, told reporters in Bishkek on 11 July that elections went peacefully in most areas of Kyrgyzstan.

"Compared to previous parliamentary elections we noticed improvements in the election process," Novotny said. "We haven't observed an environment with a large scale of vote buying or intimidation of journalists or voters. But on election day, we observed some serious violations. There were some isolated cases of ballot stuffing or illegal campaigning or not following the procedures for checking the inking of voters."

In its prelimenary report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the election "marked tangible progress toward meeting OSCE and other international commitments for democratic elections, although the vote count proved to be problematic."

The OSCE's ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Lubomir Kopaj, said in Bishkek today that basic electoral freedoms were respected in yesterday’s vote. "Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were respected throughout the election process," he said. "The use of administrative resources to favor the incumbent [Bakiev] was largely absent or unsolicited after strong warnings were announced."

The country's electoral officials say elections were free and transparent. Turusbekov of the Central Election Commission told RFE/RL that reported violations were not significant.

"There are some complaints about minor violations," he said. "We will check those complaints. However, they are not going to change the general outcome of elections."

Under the current legislation, the Central Election Commission is to pass its official conclusion on the election results to Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court. The court, in turn, must examine their validity.

If the Constitutional Court confirms the results validity, Bakiev will be proclaimed the country's new president. Central Election Commission officials told RFE/RL that Bakiev is likely to be inaugurated in August.

For RFE/RL's full coverage of Kyrgyzstan's presidential election, see "Kyrgyzstan Votes 2005"

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