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Playing for high electoral stakes in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan likes to portray itself as Central Asia’s only democracy – but dog-whistle politics and dirty tricks deployed in the October 2017 presidential election muddied its democratic credentials.

“It’s like a game of poker,” said Medet Tursaliyev, a young man emerging from a polling station in Bishkek, the leafy laidback capital of Kyrgyzstan. “They’re playing all in – for high stakes.”

As Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on October 15th last year, Tursaliyev had hit the nail on the head: it was a high-stakes political battle of a type never witnessed before in Central Asia. His country made history by staging the first ever truly competitive presidential election in a region ruled by strongmen who usually cling to power for decades.
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January 2, 2018 - Joanna Lillis - AnalysisIssue 1 2018Magazine

Sooronbay Jeyenbekov, Kyrgyzstan’s new president, meets with the EU’s Federica Mogherini in December 2017. Photo courtesy of the European Commission

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