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IRI about forthcoming presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan

On October 15, 2017, Kyrgyz citizens will go to the polls to vote in presidential elections, in what is anticipated to be the first formal transfer of power from one elected official to another in the country’s history. The International Republican Institute (IRI) reported.

If the election process proceeds peacefully, it will represent an important benchmark in Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development and will consolidate the progress the country has made in recent years. Additionally, the next president will strongly influence the direction the country takes on issues of popular concern such as unemployment and corruption.

The leading candidates are: former prime minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK); and opposition candidate Omurbek Babanov of the Respublika Party, another former prime minister. Eleven additional candidates are also competing, including a number of independents.

An IRI poll conducted in early 2017 indicated that Babanov had higher favorability ratings then Jeenbekov; however, as the candidate of the incumbent party, Jeenbekov may have an advantage due to his familiarity and association with the outgoing President Atambauev.

Unemployment and corruption have consistently ranked as the dominant concerns of Kyrgyz citizens over multiple years of IRI polling. As the economy has contracted, the number of Kyrgyz emigrants has risen—an issue that the candidates have pledged to address by creating more jobs at home to bring these migrants back to Kyrgyzstan.

The close race between Jeenbekov and Babanov is likely to lead to a runoff election, to be held in late October or early November. The average turnout in recent elections has hovered between 50 and 60 percent, with limited turnout by young people. The ultimate result is likely to depend on how the supporters of the other eleven candidates distribute their votes between the two frontrunners.

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