Kyrgyzstan parliamentary election expected to bolster president

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BISHKEK, Nov 28 (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan votes for a new parliament on Sunday, a year after an election triggered riots that toppled the government.

After a low-key campaign, political analysts expect the vote to favour allies of President Sadyr Japarov, cementing his grip on the Central Asian nation with close ties to Russia and China.

A Russian military airbase located in Kyrgyzstan allows Moscow to project power throughout the broader region and to locations such as Afghanistan.

Japarov, 52, came to power during the turmoil that followed the October 2020 parliamentary elections, the results of which a number of political parties refused to accept.

Freed from prison where he was serving a sentence for a political stunt that involved kidnapping a provincial governor, Japarov became prime minister within days and then successfully ran for president on a nationalist and populist platform.

Aside from pushing through constitutional reform strengthening the presidency, Japarov’s major step so far has been the de facto nationalisation of the giant Kumtor gold operated by Canada’s Centerra Gold, precipitating an ongoing legal battle.

Japarov has maintained the former Soviet republic’s traditionally close ties with Russia and dismissed suggestions of allowing the United States to establish a military base in the country in addition to the existing Russian facility.

This week the state security service headed by Japarov’s close ally said it had prevented a coup planned by a group of unnamed former senior officials and parliament members.

About 1,300 candidates from 21 political parties are contesting 90 parliamentary seats in Sunday’s vote under a mixed system under which some seats are assigned to constituencies and others distributed between parties.

“I have voted for someone based on their track record, for the people whose work I have seen,” Bakytbek, a 35-year-old construction engineer, said after voting at a polling station where coronavirus precautions involved voters having temperature checks from people clad in protective suits before being allowed to enter.

“In terms of what they promise, all candidates are the same.”

Early results of the vote are expected shortly after the polls close at 8 pm local time (1400 GMT).

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alexander Smith and David Goodman)

Photo – An elderly woman casts a ballot paper into a portable ballot box during early voting in the village of Besh- Kungei, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. EPA-EFE/IGOR KOVALENKO

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