The people of Kyrgyzstan have been picking a new president, amid appeals from the West for the vote to be free and fair. The former Soviet republic is still highly volatile, reeling after a revolution that ousted its long-time leader.
It is hoped a democratic vote will stabilise the country. It would also lend legitimacy to the former opposition figure currently in charge. Exit polls indicate acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev will be staying on in the job. He is said to have won 88 percent of the vote. “I would like to thank everyone and I hope that today the citizens of Kyrgyzstan will elect themselves a worthy president,” he said, after casting his own vote. The five former Soviet republics in Central Asia have a history of flawed elections as well as government pressure on opposition parties and independent media. The European Union says a democratic ballot in Kyrgyzstan would set an example. Disputed parliamentary polls sparked the unrest in March that swept ex-leaderAskar Akayev from power. International observers were monitoring today’s presidential election.