Bakivev nominated for 2nd term

BISHKEK: Kyrgyzstan's ruling party on Friday nominated President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to stand for a second term at July 23 presidential elections in the turbulent Central Asian state.

Bakiyev accepted the nomination at a party congress, saying: "I take this above all as the party's mandate to participate in an honest contest for the right to fulfil the role of president, in which the main task is to improve the life of every Kyrgyz citizen."

"Your decision to nominate me is both an honour and a responsibility.... Our common purpose is a bright and better future for Kyrgyzstan," Bakiyev told the ruling Ak Jol (Bright Path) party after a unanimous vote by 345 delegates.

The vote came after some doubts about Bakiyev's intentions, following health problems for which he has had to receive treatment abroad.

Generally considered the most democratic of the ex-Soviet Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan has taken a more authoritarian course under Bakiyev, notably in the form of regular harassment of opposition leaders, critics say.

The country hosts a US-run airbase that is a crucial support post for Western operations in Afghanistan.

The base's future is now in question after a closure order by the Kyrgyz government.

A parliamentary poll in 2007 was criticized by international observers as falling short of democratic standards.

Bakiyev's nomination comes amid political turbulence that has been a feature of Kyrgyz life since the ouster of his predecessor in a 2005 uprising.

Just in the last week about 100 people were arrested after rioters rampaged through a village and attacked homes of ethnic Kurds.

That led to protests in which the country's main north-south highway was closed and accusations by the authorities that the opposition had fuelled the unrest.

Weakened by arrests and internally divided, the main opposition coalition only reluctantly nominated its candidate at the polls, former prime minister Almazbek Atambayev.

Bakiyev, 59, comes from the more impoverished south of the country and started his working life as an engineer.

He has long experience in government and served as prime minister under previous president Askar Akayev, from whom he eventually split.