Voting has ended in Kyrgyzstan in elections designed to create Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy.
Until April the country was, like its other ex-Soviet neighbours, ruled by an authoritarian president. But he was toppled in a revolution. New, interim president Roza Otunbayeva wants a multi-party parliament to take on many of those presidential powers.
That hope is shared by the US but opposed by Russia. Both countries have military bases in Kyrgyzstan.
Just four months ago the country witnessed the bloodiest violence in its modern history between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in and around the southern town of Osh. At least 400 people were killed and many ethnic Uzbeks were left homeless. However, international observers say the election has proceeded without major incident so far.
Jannis Lenarchich, the head of the OSCE observer mission, said: “It is so important that people are able to express their will. It is also important that their will is honestly reflected in the results and ultimately it is extremely important that everyone expects such results. It is important for this country that was recently shocked and shaken by violence that everything proceeds peacefully and smoothly.”
Unusually for Central Asia, this election result has been hard to predict and no single party will be allowed more than 65 out of the 120 seats in parliament.
Some nationalist parties, with the backing of Russia, say they will return Kyrgyzstan to strong presidential rule if they win power.