On a macro level, Kyrgyzstan's presidential election marks a historic break with the past. But up close, the results might be described as ‘same-old, same-old.’
Almazbek Atambayev, previously Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister, claimed victory in the October 30 vote. His pending assumption of the presidency will be the first time in Central Asia’s post-Soviet history that change at the pinnacle of political power is occurring via the ballot box. Unfortunately, Atambayev is likely to face a legitimacy crisis arising out of election irregularities -- a hang-up that has marred every presidential election in Central Asia for the past two decades. The hotbed of election-related discontent is southern Kyrgyzstan. Atambayev’s two top rivals, both southerners, allege the results were rigged and are demanding a new election. By the afternoon of October 31, their supporters were protesting in southern cities, where some shop owners, fearing a repeat of last year’s ethnic violence, stayed closed.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet’s Central Asia editor. Nicolas Tanner contributed reporting from Osh.