Kyrgyzstan will choose its next president from a list of 20 candidates in an election next month that could expose divisions between the north and south of the volatile Central Asian state. Official campaigning began on Monday after the Central Election Commission named its final list of candidates for president of the strategic country of 5.5 million people, which hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases.
The October 30 vote, which some analysts say will need a second round, will pit current Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev against heavyweight rivals from the south of the country, where central government’s grip on power is tenuous.
The election is the culmination of constitutional reforms introduced after the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. Current President Roza Otunbayeva, who led the interim government that took power, will step down on December 31.
Two decades after independence from the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan, which borders economic powerhouse China and lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan, remains culturally and ethnically divided.
As well as divisions between the more developed north and poorer south, tensions persist between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south after the violent clashes that killed more than 400 people in June 2010.
The new model of government, which replaces nearly two decades of failed authoritarian rule, makes parliament the main decision-making body in Kyrgyzstan.
A fragile coalition government, led by Atambayev, is attempting to entrench the first parliamentary democracy in a region otherwise governed by strongman presidents.
But some politicians oppose this model of government. Those with links to the Bakiyev government have a groundswell of support in the ousted president’s southern strongholds. Bakiyev himself is now exiled in Belarus.
Full Article: Twenty candidates to vie for Kyrgyz presidency | Reuters.