Jan 10, 2021 12:11 UTC
  • Kyrgyzstan heads to polls to cast ballots in critical presidential polls

People in Kyrgyzstan have voted in presidential elections in possibly one of the most challenging polls since the Central Asian country’s independence from the former Soviet Union.

Polls opened across Kyrgyzstan at 7:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) and would close at 8:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Sunday, with voters casting their ballots to choose the country’s next president and decide on a new political system.

Pitted against 17 other candidates, Sadyr Zhaparov, the acting prime minister, is a highly divisive figure in the Sunday election who has run the country since unrest broke out as a result of an allegedly rigged parliamentary election on October 4 that led to the cancellation of results.

Opposition supporters accused authorities of rigging the vote and forced President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to step down on October 15.

More than 600 people were reportedly injured during the protests. The Kyrgyz Health Ministry also confirmed the death of one person in Bishkek riots.

Zhaparov has been pushing for a switch to a presidential form of government, which would bestow upon the president excessive legislative and executive powers.

Supporters of Zhaparov view the politician as a man of the people and the disenfranchised youth of the countryside and migrant workers.

According to local pollsters, the 52-year-old enjoys a comfortable lead over competitors and could potentially win more than 50% of the vote, thus avoiding a runoff.