A man walks past an election campaign poster of presidential candidate Sooronbay Jeenbekov in the village of Vorontsovka, 20 kilometers of Bishkek, on October 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
’s presidential challenger who lost a bitterly-fought weekend election to former premier Sooronbay Jeenbekov appears to accept the result without challenge, paving the way for a peaceful transfer of power.
Jeenbekov is to become Kyrgyzstan’s fifth president after winning more than 54 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election to replace outgoing leader Almazbek Atambayev.
The 58-year-old, who had been tapped as Atambayev’s preferred successor, was running against 10 other candidates, but his main challenger was former oil trader Omurbek Babanov.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described the election in the Central Asian, former Soviet republic as “competitive,” but said that “pressure on voters and vote-buying remain a concern.”
On Monday, Babanov — a charismatic 47-year-old who leads Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest party and who won more than 33 percent of the vote — appeared prepared to accept the result.
“In these elections, I got a place which I was given,” he told reporters.
“We showed that in Kyrgyzstan, you can and should go and vote.
“Time will tell who was right and who was wrong,” he added, asking his supporters “not to respond to provocations.”
Presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov (C) casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on October 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Eleven candidates ran in the election, with Babanov winning an endorsement from Nursultan Nazarbayev, the leader of neighboring Kazakhstan.
But many feared he would contest the result, potentially sparking unrest in a country that hosts a Russian military base and looks to next-door China for loans and investment in infrastructure.
Ahead of the vote, one of Babanov’s main supporters was arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup.
Jeenbekov, who served as one of six prime ministers during Atambayev’s time in office, thanked opponents for making the elections “competitive” during a speech at his campaign headquarters on Sunday night.
With results from 98 percent of the polling stations counted, the Central Election Commission on Monday put turnout at just under 56 percent.
Just over three million Kyrgyz nationals were eligible to vote in the election.
But hundreds of thousands of migrants working abroad in Russia could not vote because they did not submit biometric data and failed to register with an embassy or consulate in time.