Ex-jailbird Sadyr Japarov is expected to win the presidential vote in Kyrgyztan’s first elections since its recent political crisis in October, AFP reported. 

In the capital Bishkek, many voters said they planned to vote for Japarov, who was convicted for hostage-taking back in 2017. 

“He has promised to raise salaries, pensions,” said Vera Pavlova, 69, told AFP.

“I haven’t seen their posters anywhere. Only Japarov’s.”

In addition to picking a new president, the elections will also determine whether a parliamentary or presidential form of government exists in the ex-Soviet nation.

Japarov, who was sprung from jail by supporters during the crisis before a court overturned his conviction, has presented himself as an ‘uncompromising opponent of organised crime’ and ‘systemic corruption’, and has refuted claims that criminal networks are behind his rise to power.

“Let us come together… treat each other with understanding and respect. We are one country, one people,” he told a crowd of about a thousand people, during his last campaign appearance on Friday, AFP reported.

With a struggling economy worsened further by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyrgyzstan’s next leader might be forced to be even more dependent on support from allies Russia — a destination several Kyrgyz migrants — and neighbouring country China.