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Presidential candidate Sooronbai Jeenbekov casts his ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan October 15, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov


BISHKEK (Reuters) - Former Kyrgyzstan prime minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov appeared set for a surprise outright victory in Sunday's presidential election, preliminary results showed.

According to data published by the central election commission -- which was being updated in real time -- Jeenbekov had secured about 55 percent of the vote based on 1.6 million ballots counted.

The commission has not announced the final turnout figure. By 1700 local time, three hours before the polls closed, about 1.2 million voters out of the total of 3 million had cast their ballots.

His main opponent, oil tycoon Omurbek Babanov, was well behind with 34 percent, according to the same preliminary data.

Citing pre-election polls, observers had expected none of the candidates to clear the 50 percent threshold for outright victory, with Jeenbekov and Babanov then competing in a runoff.

Both men are seen as pro-Russian, looking on Russia - where hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz migrant labourers work - as a strategic partner.

Babanov's campaign office, which had earlier in the day complained about attacks on its staff and supporters, declined to comment on the preliminary figures.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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