Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Nationalist wins landslide victory in Kyrgyzstan presidential ballot

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Nationalist prisoner turned prime minister Sadyr Japarov won a landslide victory in Kyrgyzstan presidential election, the first results of which on Sunday suggest it garnered nearly 80% of the vote.

Out of his prison cell for violent riots in October against the former president and his government, Mr. Japarov was appointed Prime Minister and then interim president, in the third Central Asian country ousted by a head of state by popular protest since 2005.

The rapid change of power underscored political instability and fierce regional rivalries in Kyrgyzstan which made it the only multi-party democratic state in a region awash with aging dictators and autocracies.

But the political uproar and the rise of an outspoken Kyrgyz nationalist Angry russia, which has a military base in the country and is scrambling for Chinese influence in the resource-rich post-Soviet Central Asia region.

Japarov nonetheless pledged to maintain close ties with Russia, the main destination for hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrant workers whose remittances are a crucial pillar of the country’s economy.

“Russia is our strategic partner,” he told reporters during the vote in a district of the capital, Bishkek, on Sunday.

The 52-year-old won 79.2% of the vote, the country’s electoral commission said in a statement, citing the preliminary results. None of the other 17 candidates, whose campaigns were largely overtaken by Mr. Japarov, received more than 2.4% of the vote, the committee said.

In a new surge of power which some analysts believe could undermine the country’s political plurality, a national referendum held alongside the presidential poll saw 81.3% of voters backing proposals to strengthen the role of the presidency at the expense of Parliament.

Erica Marat, associate professor at the College of International Security Affairs, an institution supported by the US Department of Defense in Washington, described Mr. Japarov as a “Kyrgyz Trump” whose election could mark “the beginning of another moment. Descending authoritarianism yo-yo. “.

“A presidential system has only one goal: to strengthen the powers of Kyrgyzstan Trump beyond what the current constitution allows and consolidate its central role. [Vladimir] Putin, [Nursultan] Nazarbayev, etc. She said, referring to the longtime leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan.

The widely anticipated victory cements Mr. Japarov’s extraordinary rise from criminal to elected head of state in just three months.

Protesters who took to the streets against the alleged vote buying in the country’s October parliamentary elections broke into his prison cell and the president’s office, plunging the country into crisis and leaving his predecessor Sooronbai Jeenbekov little choice but to resign.

A former MP, Mr. Japarov was halfway serving an 11-year kidnapping sentence, linked to his campaign in the early 2010s to nationalize the vast Kumtor gold mine in Canada-owned Centerra Gold.

Since assuming the interim presidency, Japarov has given up on that desire, but said he believes profits from the mine should be shared more fairly.


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