Voters are going to the polls in Kyrgyzstan Sunday to choose a new president as well as decide on constitutional changes in the form of government.
According to Anadolu Agency (AA), as many as 3.5 million registered voters started to cast their votes at 2,474 polling places nationwide at 8 a.m. local time (2 am. GMT).
Seventeen candidates are seeing the presidency, including former prime minister and presumed front-runner Sadyr Zhaparov, former Parliament Speaker Adahan Madumarov, ex-State Committee for National Security head Abdil Segizbayev and a former member of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.
The country will also decide on its form of government: parliamentary, presidential or no change.
If a presidential candidate gets more than half of the votes Sunday, he will be elected, and if not, the top two candidates will proceed to a second round.
Sunday's election in the Central Asian country comes in the wake of protests that erupted last October after eight political parties rejected parliamentary election results, claiming the process was unfair.
The demonstrators stormed parliament and other buildings and clashed with police, demanding new elections. In response, the election authority annulled the election results. Opposition supporters accused authorities of rigging the vote and forced President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to step down on Oct. 15.
Sadyr Zhaparov, a 52-year-old politician who was freed from jail by protesters and then spearheaded Jeenbekov's removal from office, is widely expected to win the presidency. Clashes between protesters and security forces left at least one person dead and 590 others injured.
The unrest marked the third time in 15 years when a leader of the 6.5-million nation on the border with China was forced out by a popular uprising. Like the previous uprisings that toppled presidents in 2005 and 2010, the latest turmoil was driven by clan rivalries that shape the country’s politics. Zhaparov, who had been in prison since 2017 on a kidnapping conviction, became the country's interim leader, but he renounced that position to be able to run for president as required by law.