Kurmanbek Bakyev served as the second president of Kyrgyzstan after Askar Akyev fled in the 2005 Tulip Revolution until he too succumbed to a revolution in 2010, 9 months after I was in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh to observe the presidential elections.
Kyrgyzstan’s 2009 election for president was an active experience that pitted the incumbent against five other contenders including Almazbek Atambayev, the current president. In my two months there, I heard and saw many instances of unfair competition and vote rigging as well as serious regional tension that culminated in the events the next year.
At this campaign event in the main sports arena in Osh, the crowds were generally active and energized. Unlike other rallies I attended, there were more young people and the mood felt more celebratory than thought-provoking. It also was paranoid and subsequently, I was accused of being a spy while taking photos and threatened to be arrested.