By Stefan J. Bos
The unrest has put mounting pressure on Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to resign. Under his watch, Kyrgyz troops and police backed by military vehicles such as armored personnel carriers gathered on the capital Bishkek’s main square.
Jeenbekov declared a state of emergency as he wants troops and other security forces to patrol Bishkek’s streets. A 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. curfew is in place until October 21.
The move is in response to violent protests that erupted following the October 4 parliamentary elections. Demonstrators and opposition parties claim the ballot was tainted by vote-buying and fraud to benefit parties loyal to the president.
Official results showed that only four out of 16 parties passed the 7 percent threshold to enter Parliament. Three of the parties who received seats have close ties to President Jeenbekov.
However, he told the nation in a televised address: “Some political forces attempted to overthrow the government illegally. They used the elections, as an excuse and severely violated public order. They did not leave the people in peace.”
Bishkek clashes continue
But his measures did little to end publicly expressed outrage over the elections outcome and other unrest. Under pressure from protesters, the Central Election Commission has overturned the parliamentary vote results. Protest leaders have moved quickly to form a new government.
An emergency parliament session on Tuesday nominated lawmaker Sadyr Zhaparov as the new prime minister. But that move was immediately contested by other protest groups.
The demonstrators also freed former President Almazbek Atambayev. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in June on charges of corruption and abuse of office.
But Atambayev and his supporters described it as a political witch-hunt by the current president. On Friday, Zhaparov supporters attacked pro-Atambayev demonstrators on Bishkek’s central square, hurling stones and bottles.
A man with a pistol fired several shots at Atambayev’s car as it sped away, but the former president was unhurt. He was, however, detained again and send to jail.
Party officials said two other politicians affiliated with Atambayev also had their cars shot as they left the square. They, too, weren’t injured. Amid the escalating unrest, legislators voted Saturday again to seal Zhaparov’s appointment as prime minister. Only 51 members in the 120-seat parliament were present.
President to resign?
However, the deputy speaker of parliament said a quorum of 62 deputies was reached after individuals obtained power-of-attorney documents to vote on behalf of absent lawmakers.
After his appointment, Zhaparov said he expected President Jeenbekov to honor his pledge to resign once a government had been formed. The president made that promise as clashes between rival groups escalated earlier in the week.
But incoming Prime Minister Zhaparov is also a controversial figure. Until supporters broke him out of jail on October 6, he served an 11.5-year sentence after being convicted in 2017 of taking a government official hostage and other crimes.
In an unexpected move, a court struck down the verdict this week during the unrest.
The turmoil marks a third time in 15 years that protesters moved to topple a government in Kyrgyzstan that once belonged to the then Soviet Union. The nation of 6.5 million people is one of the poorest former Soviet republics.