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Kyrgyzstan: Dirty Election, Vibrant Electorate

Sooronbai Jeenbekov (right) has been handpicked by the ruling Social Democratic Party and implicitly supported by President Almazbek Atambayev (left). For that reason, Jeenbekov is seen by his backers as a symbol of continuity. (Photo: Kyrgyz Presidential Press Service)

While the sharp escalation of dirty tricks has soured the mood ahead of Kyrgyzstan’s October 15 presidential election, the variety and intensity of people’s opinions are reminders of why the country continues to deserve its reputation as a haven in the region for relative political freedom.
 
The election is centering on two establishment candidates — all the other contestants are also-rans. The outcome remains uncertain, which is an anomaly when it comes to votes in Central Asia.
 
In one corner is Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a dour and charisma-lite 58-year-old southerner who served as prime minister from April 2016 until stepping down in August to begin campaigning. He has been handpicked by the ruling Social Democratic Party, or SDPK, and been implicitly supported by President Almazbek Atambayev, who is constitutionally required to relinquish power after one term. For that reason, Jeenbekov is seen by his backers as a symbol of continuity.
 

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Nurjamal Djanibekova is a reporter based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan: Dirty Election, Vibrant Electorate

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