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Kazakhstan Steers Clear Of Observing Kyrgyz Election As Dispute Persists

Kazakh President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev (right) sparked a diplomatic spat by meeting with Kyrgyz opposition presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov (left) last month.

ASTANA -- Kazakhstan's election commission says it will not send an observer to the October 15 presidential poll in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, citing what it called Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev's "contrived" accusations of meddling in the campaign.

At a Kazakh Central Election Commission (OSK) meeting on October 13, OSK member Marat Sarsenbaev said he was rejecting an invitation to observe the election "to avoid speculation that our country is in any way interfering in the voting in Kyrgyzstan."

The commission supported the move. Deputy chairman Konstantin Petrov announced that the OSK will not observe the election following "unprecedented statements by the president of Kyrgyzstan about Kazakhstan."

However, the OSK said 46 Kazakh officials will take part in observing the Kyrgyz elections in the missions of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking Countries.

On October 7, Atambaev accused Kazakh authorities of "meddling in Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs" and of openly supporting Omurbek Babanov, who is facing off against Atambaev's former prime minister and favored successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov as well as other candidates in the vote.

Atambaev also criticized Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has been in power since the Soviet era, over his long rule.

The accusations came after Nazarbaev met on September 19 with Babanov, who is seen as a front-runner along with ruling Social Democratic Party candidate Jeenbekov -- an unusual step by the president of a neighboring country during an election campaign.

Atambaev is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term and has publicly supported Jeenbekov, who stepped down as prime minister in August to run for president.

The presidential campaign in Kyrgyzstan officially ends at midnight on October 13, with campaigning prohibited on the day before the vote.

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