Q&A: Kyrgyz presidential election
- 28 October 2011
- From the section Asia-Pacific
Voters in Kyrgyzstan go to the polls on 30 October to choose a new president in the first election since a violent anti-government uprising ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010.
The election will be the first poll in Central Asia with no incumbent running for re-election.
President Roza Otunbayeva, who has led the interim government since the so-called April revolution in 2010, is stepping down as set out by the constitution.
The polls are seen as an important step to complete the transition from a presidential system to a parliamentary democracy, the first in Central Asia.
The election is also being closely watched by the US and Russia, both of whom have strategically important military air bases in this former Soviet republic.
What is at stake?
Kyrgyzstan passed a new constitution by referendum after the change of power in 2010, officially declaring the country a parliamentary republic. However, some hard-line candidates with strong nationalist leanings have said they will return the country to a strong presidency.
Other concerns are the fragile peace in the country's south following ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in June 2010, as well as the fierce power struggle between the country's more developed north and poorer south. Some "southern" candidates have warned against attempts to rig the election, saying this may lead to renewed violence and escalate the north-south divide.
Who is standing?
A total of 16 candidates are standing in the polls. Seven of the hopefuls represent political parties and the rest are running independently.
The main battle is expected to unfold between supporters and opponents of the parliamentary system. Former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, who supports a parliamentary system, is seen as a clear favourite to win the election.
The main challengers are the leaders of the two main nationalist parties, Adakhan Madumarov and Kamchybek Tashiyev, who advocate a return to a strong presidential system.
How powerful is the president?
Although the new constitution has considerably reduced the president's powers, devolving many of his or her key responsibilities to parliament and the prime minister, the president remains the head of state and commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces.
The president retains some key powers, such as the right to appoint the defence minister and the head of the State National Security Service.
Will the election be free and fair?
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, noted following the parliamentary election in October 2010 that there was "a further consolidation of the democratic process" and that the "authorities displayed the political will to hold democratic elections in line with OSCE commitments".
The opposition fear that former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev will seek to rig the election to secure victory in the first round, but President Roza Otunbayeva has given assurances that the election will be fair.
"The previous parliamentary election was held in a very organised way, without the use of the machinery of government. We will be able to hold a fair and transparent election this year as well", she has said.
What are the election rules?
This will be the first election to be held under the new constitution passed by referendum in 2010.
Under the new legal system, the president is elected by popular vote for only one six-year term without the right to stand for re-election.
Any Kyrgyz citizen aged between 35 and 70 without a criminal record, who is proficient in the Kyrgyz language and who has lived permanently in the country for at least 15 years, is eligible to run.
Voter turn-out must exceed 50% to make the election valid. A candidate will be declared the winner in the first round if he or she wins more than 50% of the votes cast.
Run-off elections are held within a month between the two leading candidates if no-one polls more than 50% of the votes in the first round.
What about security?
There has been growing speculation that some may try to destabilise the situation seeking revenge for last year's ethnic violence, as well as what they see as last year's "coup".
Stringent security measures will be in place with 6,500 police officers deployed and 14,000 members of the public co-opted to ensure law and order at the 2,500 polling stations.
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