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Frustration on Kyrgyz Border as Election Draws Near

Some Kyrgyz claim Kazakhstan is hampering border traffic in retaliation for their president’s verbal assaults on the Kazakh leader.

13 October 2017

Long lines formed at a major crossing on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border 10 October after Kazakh border guards said they were stepping up security so as to “prevent illegal actions … and to detect individuals involved in terrorism and smuggling.”


The lines and anger at the crossing near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, exemplify the worsening relations between the two countries’ leaders, just three days before Kyrgyzstan holds a presidential election.


Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev on 7 October again accused his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbaev, of interfering on behalf of his preferred candidate, writes.


Despite the unseemly bickering between heads of state, a senior Western diplomat in Kyrgyzstan said Sunday’s vote “will be the freest and fairest election in Central Asian history.”


“Elsewhere in the region the only intrigue is whether the ruling president will get 99 percent or 105 percent of the vote, while here we really don’t know who is going to win,” the diplomat told The Guardian.


Atambaev, who is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in office, backs the candidate of the ruling party, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and has accused Nazarbaev of exerting his considerable influence on behalf of businessman Omurbek Babanov.


Lines at the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. Image by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via Youtube.


This week, Atambaev unexpectedly cancelled his participation at the upcoming Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Sochi, where he would have had to rub shoulders with Nazarbaev. His office justified the decision on security grounds, saying “evidence of preparations for unrest on election day on the part of certain politicians” led the president to stay home “so that he can personally monitor that there is order and security in the country,” EurasiaNet says.


Atambaev sought to bolster his democratic credentials in a recent interview with Time magazine.


“Some neighboring countries have been financing some presidential candidates who want to bring back the old order, an authoritarian system that’s dubbed ‘presidential,’ ” he said.


Atambaev also criticized the Obama and Trump administrations for putting energy interests above democracy promotion in Central Asia:


“But for the U.S., we’ve realized that what matters most to them is oil, gas, and other interests they have. The U.S. doesn’t need democracy in the world. That deeply disappointed me when I realized it. I was disappointed with Obama. And the current U.S. president is saying that he will only be dealing with U.S. issues.”



  • Jeenbekov represents continuity, The Guardian writes, while a source in Babanov’s campaign said the businessman will seek economic liberalization, tax reforms, and more foreign investment.


  • The line of cars, trucks, and pedestrians at the Ak-Jol checkpoint near Bishkek continues to grow, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 12 October, with some motorists saying they had waited overnight.


  • The district governor said yesterday that tents had been set up to provide travelers with food and water and a place to rest for pregnant women and the elderly and ill.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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Moldovan diaries

The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.

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