Former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov won Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election, according to preliminary official data, as his defeated rival called for unity in the central Asian republic that’s been roiled by political violence in the past. Jeenbekov, who’s backed by outgoing President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic party, received 54.3 percent of the about 1.7 million votes cast, making a run-off unnecessary, the central election commission reported Monday. Businessman Omurbek Babanov, who heads the opposition Respublika party, was second with 33.4 percent. Turnout was 56 percent of 3 million eligible voters.
“Elections were held, one candidate got more votes than anyone else and that means he won,” Babanov said at his campaign headquarters in the capital, Bishkek, as he urged supporters “not to succumb to provocations.” Kyrgyzstan “needs stability” and the new president’s first task should be to unite people in the country “regardless of whom they supported,” he said.
The election involving 13 candidates was seen as a genuine contest for power in a region dominated by dictators ruling for decades. Rich in gold and other minerals, and host to a strategic Russian military base, Kyrgyzstan has had a turbulent history since independence in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first Kyrgyz president, Askar Akayev, was overthrown in the 2005 “Tulip Revolution.” His successor, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, fled into exile in 2010, when rioters stormed the presidential palace amid corruption allegations.