Kyrgyz president quits; prime minister, newly sprung from jail, takes over


BISHKEK : Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov resigned on Thursday, leaving power in the hands of a nationalist rival whose supporters freed him from jail last week.

The swift transition appears to put an end to more than a week of turmoil and unrest that followed a disputed election.

Sadyr Japarov, 51, who was named prime minister this week, told cheering supporters that he had taken on the powers of the presidency, following the resignation of Jeenbekov and of the parliament speaker, who would otherwise have been next in line.“Today, (speaker Kanatbek) Isayev signed a resignation letter. All presidential powers have fully passed to me today,” Japarov said.

Hours earlier, Jeenbekov became the third president of the small Central Asian nation since 2005 to be toppled in a popular uprising. In a statement, he said he was resigning to prevent violence, which he said would have been inevitable if protesters carried out a threat to march on his compound.

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

Kyrgyzstan’s constitution requires a new election for president within three months. The rules appear to bar Japarov, as interim president, from standing again.

Kyrgyzstan has been in turmoil since an Oct. 4 parliamentary vote, which the opposition rejected after Jeenbekov’s allies were declared the winners.

Since the election, opposition supporters have taken to the streets and seized government buildings, prompting the authorities to annul the vote.

Japarov who was serving a sentence for attempting to kidnap another politician during unrest in 2013, was sprung from prison by his supporters last week. A judge then threw out his conviction, and parliamentary factions picked him to be premier.

Jeenbekov announced last week that he planned to resign, but later said he would stay in office until a new election was held. Japarov rejected the delay and pressed him to resign immediately.