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Kyrgyz ex-defense minister pulls out of presidential election


BISHKEK, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Former Kyrgyz defense minister Ismail Isakov announced on Tuesday his exit from the presidential election race, in a bid to unite the opposition behind a single candidate ahead of the July 23 polls.

Gen. Isakov, also a former secretary of the Central Asian country's security council, resigned last October in protest against government policies. He told reporters he has stood down in favor of presidential candidate Almazbek Atambayev.

"Given the situation surrounding the upcoming presidential polls, and desperate attempts by the authorities to split the opposition and disorientate voters, I took a decision to withdraw from the election campaign in favor of the single candidate of the United People's Movement," Isakov said.

Isakov, who came to power together with President Kurmanbek Bakiyev after the 2005 "tulip revolution", called on opposition members to "discard their ambitions, material interests and whims in the name of unity and common goals."

A total of 18 candidates, including the incumbent leader, whose term expires this October, were registered as presidential hopefuls by Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission on Monday night.

Bakiyev, 59, who is widely expected to be comfortably reelected, was initially elected for a four-year term, but the constitution was later amended to extend the term to five years.

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