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US hails 'democratic' Kyrgyzstan election

02 november 2011, 11:15
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Members of a local election committee empty a ballot box to count ballots at a polling station in the Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek. ©AFP
Members of a local election committee empty a ballot box to count ballots at a polling station in the Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek. ©AFP
US President Barack Obama Monday hailed Kyrgyzstan's presidential election as "democratic" and "courageous" after Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev secured victory despite rivals' claims of fraud, AFP reports.

"I congratulate the people and government of Kyrgyzstan for yesterday's democratic and peaceful presidential election," Obama said in a statement.

"In casting their ballots, the Kyrgyz people have taken an important and courageous step on the path of democracy and demonstrated their commitment to an orderly and open transition of power."

The president's praise for the election came despite concerns expressed by the international observer mission led by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe that there were some shortcomings with the vote count.

Atambayev, a close ally of outgoing President Roza Otunbayeva, who took power after a 2010 uprising ousted the regime of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, won 63 percent of the vote in Sunday's polls, the central election commission said.

An unrest-free election is in itself a major achievement for Kyrgyzstan, which in the two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union has not once seen a peaceful transition of presidential power.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Sunday's vote "an important step on the path toward sustainable democracy.

"Candidates were allowed to compete in a competitive and robust campaign, and both domestic and international observers were free to monitor the voting process on election day," she said in a statement.

Atambayev's crushing victory over his two nationalist rivals -- who garnered less than 15 percent apiece -- gave him the presidency without the need for a potentially tricky second round.

The future of the nation of 5.3 million people is closely watched by the United States, which uses Kyrgyzstan as a hub for transit operations for the campaign in Afghanistan.

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