By Nazir Aliyev Tayfur
BISHKEK (AA) – As many as 17 candidates are in the fray in the presidential elections in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, scheduled on Sunday.
A referendum is also scheduled on the same day to determine the form of government alongside choosing the president.
Kyrgyzstan, which gained its independence on Aug.31, 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, will witness the eighth elections in its political history.
As many as 3.5 million registered voters will cast their votes in 2,474 ballot boxes put up in the country and 48 ballot boxes outside the country.
According to election authorities, the election process will be conducted with due precautions like ensuring social distance, hygiene, and mask rules as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The voting will start at 8 a.m. local time and will continue for 12 hours.
The country will also decide on the form of government — be it a parliamentary system or a presidential one. A third option has been kept for those voters who would settle for the mixed parliamentary-presidential system which is currently in vogue in the country.
The candidate who gets more than half of the votes in the presidential election will be declared elected, otherwise, the two candidates with the highest votes will compete in the second round.
Pollsters say Sadyr Japarov, 52, who was released from prison — where he served a sentence for kidnapping charges – is the favorite in the elections. He was held during demonstrations that caused the cancellation of the parliamentary elections held on Oct.4. He was later appointed as prime minister. He later resigned from the position to contest presidential polls.
Japarov is promising a strong presidential system combating corruption and the development of the country in a short time.
His closest rival is Adakhan Madumarov, who comes from the southern Osh region.
Supported especially by the Kyrgyz people living abroad, Madumarov promises political stability and better rule of law.
Over the past 26-day election campaign period, the candidates had to campaign and seek the attention of voters in subzero temperatures up to minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and also amid strict COVID-19 measures implemented.
Protests in the Central Asian country had erupted in October 2020 after eight political parties rejected the election results, claiming the process was unfair.
The demonstrators stormed the parliament and other buildings, clashed with police, demanding new parliamentary elections.
In response, the election authority annulled the results, in which four of 16 parties had managed to pass the 7% threshold to enter parliament.
Clashes between protesters and security forces left at least one person dead and 590 others injured.
* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara