Candidate alleges violations in Kyrgyzstan presidential vote, but says ‘people have made their choice’

BISHKEK (TCA) — Speaking at a news conference on October 16, Omurbek Babanov, the main rival of Sooronbai Jeenbekov, the winning candidate in the October 15 presidential election in Kyrgyzstan, said the voting was marred by violations but suggested he would not mount a challenge of the official result, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports.

The Central Election Commission said preliminary results indicated that ruling party candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov won more than 54 percent of the vote — enough to avoid a runoff.

Babanov, who the commission said was second with just under 34 percent according to an initial count of nearly all ballots, said he and his backers faced pressure and bias throughout the campaign.

“State television channels were used to pour dirt on us. There was a black PR [campaign] against us. Our campaign activists were abused; they did not know whom to turn to as law enforcement was also one-sided,” Babanov said.

However, he said, “The election has taken place, and the people have made their choice.”

Babanov said that his campaign workers are currently conducting an “alternative” vote count.

Answering a question about reports saying that his supporters might be planning mass protests, Babanov said he had nothing to do with any such plans.

“I call on all my supporters to stay away from any illegal actions,” Babanov said.

The presidential election in Kyrgyzstan was held at a high level and were fully consistent with the law and international norms, Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and head of the CIS observer mission Sergei Lebedev told Sputnik on October 16.

“Following its work during the preparations for and vote in the presidential election, the CIS observer mission came to the conclusion that the election was held in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the country, and was consistent with the international norms of democratic elections,” Lebedev said, adding that the election was “held on an alternative basis, was free, open, competitive and transparent.”

Lebedev added that a number of separate violations have been registered by the observer mission, but they were not likely to affect the results of the vote.

A handover to Jeenbekov, 58, could herald a continuation of the policies of outgoing President Almazbek Atambayev, who has close ties with Moscow and brought Kyrgyzstan into Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.

“My task is to preserve what has been achieved, to strengthen what has been started,” Jeenbekov said shortly after the preliminary results were announced on October 15.

Atambayev had unleashed a series of accusations as the vote approached, claiming that opponents were plotting unrest and accusing larger northern neighbor Kazakhstan and its long-ruling president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, of interfering in the campaign and backing Babanov.

Meanwhile, the government accused Babanov of trying to buy votes and late last month it detained one of his supporters, saying there were efforts to plot a coup during the election.

Babanov has denied the accusations and in turn alleged the government has used “administrative resources” against his candidacy and in favor of Jeenbekov.

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Times of Central Asia