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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 July, 2005, 02:40 GMT 03:40 UK
Kyrgyz voters choose new leader
An electoral worker cleans a ballot box in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Hopes are that the poll will help end the current political instability
Voters in the mountainous Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan are electing a new president.

The poll comes five months after the ousting of the long-serving Soviet-era leader Askar Akayev, who fled after a wave of opposition protests.

Six candidates are running, but acting president Kurmanbek Bakiev is widely expected to win.

The BBC's correspondent in Bishkek says that the election campaign has been lacklustre and hardly visible.

The candidates have addressed some campaign meetings and they have appeared on live televised debates answering questions from the public - a first for Central Asia.

But there is little indication on the streets of Bishkek that the nation is about to choose its first post-Soviet president, says the BBC's Ian MacWilliam.

The authorities' most immediate concern is a possible low turnout - more than 50% must vote for the result to be valid. Kyrgyzstan is also experiencing a heat wave with temperatures topping 40C (104F).

US role

The demonstrations that eventually drove Mr Akayev into exile were triggered by disputed parliamentary elections in February and March.

Map of Kyrgyzstan

The impoverished republic has been racked by protests ever since.

However, most political observers say there have been few serious abuses of the electoral law in the run-up to Sunday's poll.

At stake is Kyrgyzstan's relationship with the US.

Kyrgyzstan has a US and a Russian military base on its territory, but after the poll the new government will have to decide whether to continue hosting the US base.

The country's neighbours, Russia and China, are making it increasingly clear they want to limit the US presence in Central Asia.



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Kyrgyzstan votes
08 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Kurmanbek Bakiev
07 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Kyrgyz poll key test for transition
06 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Violence dents Kyrgyz poll hopes
22 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Kyrgyzstan's new leaders
17 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Kyrgyz MP shot dead in Bishkek
10 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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