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Kyrgyz election lacked level playing field: OSCE

Kyrgyzstan's presidential election held on Sunday lacked "a level playing field" as the victorious candidate had far greater funding allowing him to dominate his rivals' campaigns, international observers said on Monday.

Supporters of Kyrgyz presidential candidate Sadyr Japarov attend a rally at Bishkek’s Ala-Too Square on January 11, 2021, a day after the presidential election. (Photo by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO / AFP)

Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election held on Sunday lacked “a level playing field” as the victorious candidate had far greater funding allowing him to dominate his rivals’ campaigns, international observers said on Monday.

“If Kyrgyzstan is going to live up to the aspirations of its people for a functioning democracy, fully fair competition on a level playing field is critical. This was not the case here,” the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said.

However, the organisation said the election and a parallel referendum on government reform were “generally well organized”.

Results published by the ex-Soviet country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) showed populist Sadyr Japarov winning close to 80 percent of the vote after an automated count.

The 52-year-old had been serving jail time on hostage-taking charges until October when his freed by supporters freed him during mass protests.

CEC data showed his closest competitor, nationalist Adakhan Madumarov, trailing far behind with less than 7 percent.

A referendum held in parallel showed the public strongly preferring presidential rule, which would grant Japarov sweeping powers when a new constitution is put to the people later this year.

With a threadbare economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, Kyrgyzstan’s next leader is likely to be even more dependent on Russia — a destination for hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrants — and neighbouring economic giant China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first leaders to congratulate Japarov on his victory, noting that further cooperation between the two countries “meets the fundamental interests of our friendly peoples” in a telegram Monday.

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