World Bulletin / News Desk
Voters in ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan went to the polls Sunday to choose their next president in an unpredictable election setting the Central Asian country apart from its deeply authoritarian neighbours, while stoking fears of instability.
On a warm autumn day in the capital Bishkek, voters could be seen happily posing for selfies with both leading candidates -- pro-government Sooronbai Jeenbekov and opposition challenger Omurbek Babanov, an AFP correspondent said.
Around 24 percent of the electorate cast their ballots in the first five hours, official figures showed, with the vote taking place in a festive atmosphere.
But fears of potential unrest and political confrontation have cast a cloud over a ballot.
With pressure growing on oligarch Babanov, security services said Sunday they had arrested a former MP on suspicion of plotting unrest after results are announced.
Although the country is accustomed to political tumult and intrigue, the news still sparked some concern among voters.
"I won't vote today," taxi driver Valeri Kirlilenko told AFP in Bishkek. "I have heard there will be unrest if one or other candidates lose."
After a low-key campaign, opinion polls put the conservative in the lead as he claims credit for the island's economic recovery since its debilitating financial crisis of 2013.
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