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China Daily Global / 2020-10 / 16 / Page006

Kyrgyzstan president Jeenbekov quits after protests

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-10-16 00:00

BISHKEK-Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov resigned on Thursday after days of unrest following a disputed election in the Central Asian nation.

In an address to the Kyrgyz people on Thursday, Jeenbekov said he made the decision in order to restore stability in the country.

Noting that the sociopolitical situation in Bishkek remains tense, Jeenbekov called on Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov and other politicians to withdraw their supporters from the country's capital and return peace to the people of Bishkek.

He said he wanted to prevent clashes between security forces and protesters who have demanded his removal from office.

Kyrgyzstan, a country of nearly 6.5 million people, was plunged into chaos following an Oct 4 parliamentary vote that election officials say was swept by pro-government parties. The opposition said the election was tainted by vote-buying and other irregularities.

In the statement, Jeenbekov said he feared violence might break out if protesters carry out a threat to march on his compound.

"The military and security forces will be obliged to use their weapons to protect the state residence. Blood will be inevitably shed. I urge both sides not to fall for provocations," he said.

"I do not want to go down in Kyrgyzstan's history as a president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens."

After the election, opposition supporters took to the streets and seized government buildings, prompting the authorities to annul the vote. Jeenbekov said last week that he would resign, but this week he delayed his exit, saying he would stay in office until a new election was held.

Authorities deployed troops to Bishkek over the weekend and introduced a curfew. The move eased tensions in the city, where residents feared looting that accompanied previous uprisings and began forming vigilante groups to protect property. Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.

Jeenbekov had introduced a state of emergency in the capital that was endorsed on Tuesday by the parliament.

Speaker assumes powers

On Wednesday, he accepted the parliament's choice of Zhaparov, a nationalist whose supporters freed him from prison last week, to be prime minister.

Zhaparov promised his supporters that he would push for Jeenbekov's resignation and held talks with the president hours after Jeenbekov signed off on his appointment. After the talks, Jeenbekov said he would stay in the job until the political situation in Kyrgyzstan stabilizes.

Following Jeenbekov's resignation on Thursday, Parliament Speaker Kanatbek Isayev would assume presidential powers. Should he also resign, the powers would pass to Zhaparov.

Hundreds of Zhaparov's supporters were rallying nearly 700 meters away from the presidential residence. As news of Jeenbekov's resignation reached them, they started chanting "Parliament must go!" and "Isayev must go!".

The prime minister's spokesman declined to comment on whether Zhaparov would now press the speaker to stand down.

Dastan Bekeshev, a lawmaker who supports neither Jeenbekov nor Zhaparov, told Reuters by telephone: "The president couldn't hold out.... It's not clear what happens next. Nobody can tell what is going to happen."

Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military base. Moscow had said it would be responsible for helping Bishkek to maintain stability in Kyrgyzstan and warned that it could slide into chaos.

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