Voters in Kyrgyzstan have elected a new president. Former protest leader Kumanbek Bakiyev won with nearly ninety percent of the vote. President-elect Bakiyev will succeed Askar Akayev, the autocratic president who fled Kyrgyzstan after flawed parliamentary elections sparked violent protests in the capital, Bishkek, three months ago.
The Kyrgyz elections were closely monitored by observers from more than one-hundred countries. Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election indicates progress toward democracy:
"There were almost no discernible obstacles to campaigning, except the available financial resources of candidates themselves. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression were respected throughout the election process. [Abuse of] administrative resources to favor the incumbent was largely absent, or unsolicited, after strong warnings were announced [by politicians and the interim administration.]"
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey says the Kyrgyz presidential election was a big improvement over parliamentary elections held earlier in the year:
"We congratulate [Mr. Bakiyev] and the Kyrgyz people on the election which we believe marked a significant step toward long-term stability through democracy, via the Kyrgyz people's selection of a legitimate president and a democratic election."
President-elect Bakiyev has a unique opportunity to lead Kyrgyzstan away from its authoritarian past and toward a more democratic future. The U.S. hopes he will use his mandate to implement democratic reforms with the vision and tenacity needed at this pivotal time in Kyrgyzstan's history. President George W. Bush has said it is the policy of the United States to support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation -- including Kyrgyzstan.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.