BISHKEK : Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's chosen successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov won a presidential election on Sunday, defying predictions of a second round and instability in the Central Asian nation. The Central Election Commission said former prime minister Jeenbekov had pulled in over 54 percent of the vote, with oligarch opponent Omurbek Babanov taking more than a third of the ballot.

"Jeenbekov is leading," CEC head Nurzhan Shayldabekova told reporters in the capital Bishkek, saying 97 percent of the ballots had been counted. "The elections can be considered valid. The remaining three percent of ballots will not change the overall picture."

The CEC said turnout was around 56 percent. Addressing cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Bishkek, Jeenbekov said Kyrgyzstan "had shown the whole world that we are a democratic and sovereign state, that only the people of Kyrgyzstan decide the country's destiny.

 "I am grateful to my opponents who ...made the elections competitive," he said.

However, there was no sign that Babanov had accepted the outcome with a campaign spokeswoman telling AFP they were conducting "a parallel count". Resource-poor Kyrgyzstan, which looks to Russia for political support and China for investment is often described as the most democratic state in Central Asia, a predominantly authoritarian region.

But pre-election campaigning was overshadowed by an apparent smear campaign against Babanov, who leads the parliament's second largest party, and suspicions that Jeenbekov could benefit from government patronage. Jeenbekov is a close ally of incumbent president Atambayev, 61, who chose to respect a single, six-year presidential term and step down. Atambayev's own election in 2011 came on the back of political and ethnic violence the year before that left hundreds dead.