PM Atambayev wins Kyrgyzstan presidential election

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Media captionThe BBC's Natalia Antelava has been to a polling station in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has won the presidential election.

The central election commission said with 95% of the votes counted, Mr Atambayev was holding a commanding lead.

Election commission chief Tuigunaly Abdraimovwon said with Mr Atambayev taking 63% of the vote, there would be no need for a second round.

His two main rivals were each polling just under 15%.

They are both nationalist politicians from the country's south - Kamchibek Tashiyev and Adakhan Madumarov - who had vowed to contest any result they believe to be unfair.

Earlier they had alleged fraud.

Mr Abdraimovwon said several isolated incidents of voting irregularities had been reported that included attempts to stuff ballot boxes in some regions.

But he stressed that the violations were small in scale and would not invalidate the overall result of the vote.

Sixteen candidates were standing in the election in the former Soviet republic of 5.3 million people.

Mr Atambayev, 55, is a wealthy businessman from the north of Kyrgyzstan, who promised to bring prosperity and stability to this impoverished Central Asian nation.

He had the best-funded campaign and enjoyed significant public exposure by serving as prime minister until last month.

Mr Atambayev voiced his hope for an outright victory.

"It is time for our country to live, achieve harmony and flourish. People are tired of political battles and meetings," he said after voting.

Just over 60% of the Kyrgyzstan's three million eligible voters had cast ballots, election officials said.

The poll comes after the ousting of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in a violent uprising in April 2010 which left more than 90 people dead.

In the following weeks, over 400 were killed in ethnic conflict in the south between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities.

International observers said they were unable to comment on the conduct of voting, but that there were scattered media reports of voting violations throughout the day.


Image caption Almazbek Atambayev may have enough votes to avoid a run-off election.

After the polls closed, Mr Madumarov told reporters that there had been "unprecedented violations" which compromised the legitimacy of the process.

"We have have never seen such mayhem and disorder before," the Kyrgyz nationalist candidate said.

He promised to fight for his supporters' voting rights "through every legal mechanism possible".

Mr Madumarov urged authorities to form a commission made up of party officials and candidates' representatives to investigate the alleged violations.

The other leading southern candidate, former emergencies minister, Kamchibek Tashiyev, has said "millions" would take to the streets if they believed the elections to be unfair.

The last two presidents were ousted by popular street protests.

Just over 60% of the Kyrgyzstan's three million eligible voters cast ballots, election officials said after polls closed.

Roza Otunbayeva, who has led the country since Mr Bakiyev was ousted, was not contesting the polls.

Her administration strengthened parliament at the expense the president's powers.

Speaking after casting her ballot at a music college in the capital, Bishkek, Ms Otunbayeva said the election would consolidate the parliamentary system adopted under her reforms.

"What is important is that we have chosen parliamentary governance in our country," Ms Otunbayeva told the Associated Press.

"People will choose the route of freedom - freedom of speech, freedom of assembly."

The United States will be watching this vote closely. Some of the candidates, including the former prime minister, have vowed to shut down an American military base outside the capital, Bishkek, which is crucial for operations in Afghanistan, and to President Barack Obama's planned withdrawal.

Protest culture

Kyrgyzstan's Central Asian neighbours, such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are all still ruled by strong-arm leaders, who have been unchallenged since Soviet times.

In contrast, Kyrgyzstan has seen two leaders removed by violent protest in the last six years.

Public protests, from picketing parliament to blocking main roads, are a daily occurrence in a country which has gained a reputation for both instability and relative openness.

John Heathershaw, an international relations expert observing the poll in Kyrgyzstan, said that the protest culture was a sign of democratic development in the country.

"Because there are significant civil society groups, political parties that have the freedom to operate, have the freedom to speak out about their concerns, that means they do take to the streets," he said.

"You would not find this in Tajikistan or Kazakhstan even, because there is no such political culture."