Outgoing President Atambaev’s favourite candidate wins election

These are the first elections since streets protests in 2005 and 2010. Early results give Sooronbai Jeenbekov 54.46 per cent of the vote. His rival Omurbek Babanov is at 34.2 per cent. Opinion polls had predicted a tighter race. The last days of the campaign were heated. The new president inherits a complex situation dominated by relations with Kazakhstan, the economy and security.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sooronbai Jeenbekov, ally of outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev, is ahead with an unexpectedly wide margin after most votes have been counted in the country’s presidential election.

This morning, the Central Election Committee announced that the candidate for Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan had received 54.46 per cent of the vote. His main rival, millionaire Omurbek Babanov, who ran for the Respublika Party, was second with 34.2 per cent.

Public opinion polls had indicated a much tighter race between the two contenders, both former prime ministers. The wide margin is now raising questions as to how Jeenbekov managed to gain so many votes.

Tensions and controversy have marred the election in the past few weeks. The defeated candidate has criticised state media for mudslinging at his expense. Some media outlets suggested that Babanov had links with Kazakh oligarchs.

Such insinuations, along with Atambaev's claims that neighbouring Kazakhstan was trying to interfere in the election, created tensions between the two countries, especially after Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev imposed more stringent customs checks at the border.

Babanov was also accused of inciting the country’s Uzbek minority to engage in violence and that he may have been part of a plot to organise unrest in case he lost.

For his part, the defeated candidate has blamed the police for interfering with voting and abusing activists during the election campaign. However, he does not appear to want to challenge the electoral outcome and has encouraged his supporters to "stay away from illegal actions".

For the first time in the history of Kyrgyzstan since independence in 1991, the transfer of power is set to take place in a peaceful manner. The two previous presidents were ousted following street protests in 2005 and 2010.

Following the latest unrest, the country adopted a constitution that made it a parliamentary republic in which presidential powers are mostly limited to foreign policy and security matters. The president is elected to a one time six-year term.

Jeenbekov said he plans to continue Atambaev’s policies. However, he inherits a difficult situation.

Apart from the tensions with Kazakhstan, the country is far from being prosperous, and depends on the remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz working in Russia and Kazakhstan. On the short run, it has few prospects for economic development.

What is more, security remains a major issue, highlighted by the role Kyrgyz nationals played in last April’s attack in St Petersburg.