"Atambayev is the clear winner, there is no doubt about that," Asiya Sasykbayeva, deputy speaker of the Kyrgyz parliament, said by telephone from Bishkek Monday. "He was the most acceptable candidate. He's not a nationalist who will split the country between north and south, he's not a radical who will seek to upset our international relationships, and he already has plenty of experience in managing the state as prime minister. There may be protests from the losers, but his margin of victory was so overwhelming that it's not likely to make any difference."
Russia and the US, both of which maintain military bases in Kyrgyzstan, are likely to welcome the result. Atambayev is a known quantity who appears likely to press for closer relations with Moscow, but also to carefully avoid offending Washington by threatening to close down the US military transit center at Manas, a vital link in the resupply chain for NATO forces in nearby Afghanistan, as some of his predecessors have done.
"Kyrgyzstan needs cooperation with Russia, while Russia is strongly interested in maintaining stability in that region," says Konstantin Zatulin, director of the Kremlin-funded Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. "Atambayev has a lot of friends here in Moscow, he has declared that he's pro-Russian, but at the same time I think he'll seek to keep relations with other countries, including the US, on an even keel. Basically, he's a cautious, smart politician who will do what's in his country's best interests," he says.