The leading opposition figure in Kyrghyzstan has pulled out of today’s presidential election alleging widespread fraud. Almazbek Atambayev cast his vote but promptly withdrew from the race and called for a new poll.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is confidently expected to win by a landslide. He was seen as a relatively-liberal leader in a region more known for one-party states, but has recently cracked down on dissent. The opposition said his anticipated victory was based on vote-rigging on a massive scale.
Kyrghyzstan is important because of its proximity to Afghanistan. Both America and Russia maintain military bases on its territory.
Opposition parties have threatened street protests if Bakiyev does win, and there are reports that riot police fired over the heads of demonstrators in the eastern city of Balykchi. But the Kyrghyz electoral commission has declared the vote clean.