Kyrgyzstan’s President steps down amid political unrest

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AP

Moscow

Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov announced his resignation Thursday in a bid to end the turmoil that has engulfed the Central Asian nation after a disputed parliamentary election.

Jeenbekov, who has faced calls to step down from protesters and political opponents, said in a statement released by his office that holding onto power wasn’t “worth the integrity of our country and harmony in society.”

“For me, peace in Kyrgyzstan, the country’s integrity, the unity of our people and the calm in the society are above all else,” Jeenbekov said.

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

Protesters then took over government buildings, looting some offices, and the Central Election Commission nullified the election. Opposition then announced plans to oust Jeenbekov and form a new government.

In an effort to stem the unrest, Jeenbekov on Wednesday endorsed the appointment of Sadyr Zhaparov, a former lawmaker who was freed from jail by demonstrators last week, as the country’s new prime minister and Zhaparov’s new Cabinet.

Zhaparov promised his supporters to 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.

But hundreds of Zhaparov’s supporters rallied in the capital Wednesday, demanding the president’s resignation and threatening to storm his residence. Zhaparov promised on Wednesday he would meet with the president again on Thursday to convince him to step down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the meeting took place, but the protests demanding Jeenbekov’s resignation continued Thursday morning.

Jeenbekov said in his statement that the situation in Bishkek “remains tense” despite the fact that the new Cabinet was appointed the day before, and that he doesn’t want to escalate these tensions.