Kyrgyzstan elections: Unity top priority for Atambayev
Newly elected Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has said his biggest challenge will be to unify the country, which has seen two revolutions and a string of questionable elections during the past decade.
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But that ended when Mr. Akayev was overthrown in 2005's "Tulip Revolution" after being accused of rigging elections and running the economy for his own family's enrichment. Akayev's successor, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who hailed from the south of the country, soon faced widespread allegations of massive corruption and winning re-election in 2009 through fraud, in polls that international observers described as "disappointing."Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Bakiyev was turned out of office last year in a street revolt that brought Roza Otunbayeva, a feisty former diplomat, to power as interim leader. Ms. Otunbayeva attempted to break the country's cycle of instability by rewriting Kyrgyzstan's constitution to slash the powers of the presidency and vest more authority in the legislature.
Parliamentary elections a year ago created the first genuine parliament-dominated system in central Asia, but were sharply criticized by Moscow – which is leery of such precedents in the region it regards as its 'sphere of influence'.
Last year's democratic revolution was tarnished by bloody ethnic riots that killed hundreds in Kyrgyzstan's volatile south and raised the specter of national breakup. Many experts say that continuing unrest in the south is abetted by drug lords, who use the region as a staging ground in the lucrative export of narcotics from Afghanistan, via pipelines through former Soviet territory, to the West.
"We know that drug operations are expanding, and now there are even opium plantations around Osh (in southern Kyrgyzstan), and this has got to be a key concern for Russia," says Leonid Gusev, an expert with the official Moscow State Institute of International Relations. "Joint efforts will have to be stepped up, and that's one good reason for more cooperation."
Kyrgyzstan may also be a prime candidate to join the "Eurasian Union," a post-Soviet superstate proposed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who seems virtually certain to return as president next March.
"Kyrgyzstan would like to join the Eurasian Union," says Mr. Gusev. "But while the political establishment is positive about that, many local businessmen fear being muscled out by competitors from Russia and (next door) Kazakhstan if they do join."
If no serious unrest over the election result occurs in coming days, observers say the election of Atambayev may have given Kyrgyzstan its best chance in almost a decade to regain its national balance.
"It was important that the people of the Kyrgyz Republic had the opportunity to express their choice in a peaceful and orderly manner," Nursuna Memecan, the Head of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly delegation, said in a statement Monday. "I hope this election will be a step towards breaking the vicious cycle of corruption, lack of implementation of the rule of law and ethnic tensions. We call on all political actors to continue doing their utmost for the stability of the country by protecting the human rights of all its citizens and respecting democratic standards."
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