Kyrgyz Vote for New President Sunday

Posted October 29th, 2011 at 9:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Voters in Kyrgyzstan go to the polls Sunday to elect a new president.

Sixteen candidates are running in the Central Asian nation's first election since last year's bloody revolution and ethnic violence.

Former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in a violent uprising in April 2010 which left more than 90 people dead. In the following weeks, close to 500 people were killed in an ethnic clash between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the south.

The front-runner is the former prime minister Almazbek Atambayev, a wealthy businessman from the north of Kyrgyzstan. He promises to bring prosperity and stability to the mostly-Muslim impoverished country.

His main challengers are President Bakiyev's former Emergency Minister Kamchibek Tashiyev and former Speaker of Parliament Adakhan Madumarov. Both are from the south.

Roza Otunbayeva, who has led the country since Mr Bakiyev was ousted, is not running.

If none of the candidates wins 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff poll in November.

Critics have said this vote changes little because those already in power will simply rotate.

Otunbayeva's administration strengthened parliament and reduced the president's powers.

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has seen two leaders removed by violent protest in the last six years.

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 NATO operations in Afghanistan.