Kyrgyzstan votes for its next president, expected to be a run-off between two pro-Russian candidates. The mainly Muslim nation of 6 million people is already a close ally of Moscow, helping its former Soviet overlord project power across the region. Saskia O'Donoghue reports.
The people of Kyrgyzstan going to the polls on Sunday (October 15). The rugged central Asian country's presidential election is unusual for the region - as it's not predictable. No candidate is expected to win outright and observers are expecting a close runoff between two pro-Russian candidates. The link to Moscow comes as no suprise. Kyrgyzstan is already a close ally and hosts a Russian military base, helping its former Soviet overlord project power across the region where China and the United States also vie for influence. Constitutionally barred from seeking a second six-year term, current President Almazbek Atambayev has chosen to back an ally. Throwing his weight behind former prime minister and experienced bureaucrat Sooronbai Jeenbekov, whose victory would allow the outgoing leader to remain a powerful figure. Their Social Democratic party has the biggest faction in parliament and dominates the coalition cabinet. They face stiff competiton from oil tycoon Omurbek Babanov though, whose Fatherland party has the second-biggest parliamentary faction. And Babanov is confident he can beat his rival. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CANDIDATE, OMURBEK BABANOV, SAYING: "I am certain. I met people and all the polls confirm this. I think this evening as you said we will have a name of a new president. And this name will be Babanov." He is not overly popular in parliament however, previously accusing the government of abusing its powers to ensure Jeenbekov's victory after the authorities charged some of his campaign supporters with plotting a coup and planning to bribe voters. Babanov has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the charges against his supporters as dirty election tactics.