Sadyr Japarov was chosen to be the prime minister of Kyrgyzstan in an effort to end a week of violent turmoil. Kyrgyzstan had been grappling with civil unrest since a disputed parliamentary election on October 4th. Allegations of foul play and election fraud through voter-buying triggered a political crisis, sparking a wave of public anger as anti-government protestors stormed the streets.
Under intense pressure from protesters, the country’s Central Electoral Commission chose to annul the results of the election and promised to hold a new vote, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov. Some groups have used this power vacuum to release imprisoned politicians with controversial backgrounds, among them former President Almazbek Atambayev who was jailed for corruption, and Sadyr Japarov, the newly appointed Prime Minister and former MP from the nationalist Ata Jurt party who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking a hostage.
On Friday, Kyrgyzstan’s embattled president Sooronbay Jeenbekov declared a state of emergency in Bishkek, ordering troops onto the streets and confining residents to their homes. “The threat of losing our country is real,” he warned. One person has been killed and more than 1,000 have sought medical help since the unrest broke out, as Bishkek residents’ scuffle with protesters and looters. On Saturday night, the capital was calm as a state of emergency incorporating a ban on public rallies and a curfew took effect.
The landlocked country, which borders China, was part of the Soviet Union until independence in 1991. It has a reputation for holding semi-free and fair elections in comparison with some of its neighbours, but uprisings in 2005 and 2010 swept previous presidents from power. This time, after what now is widely referred to as the “October Revolution,” many fear such unrest and violence may happen again. The country is already facing growing instability both in the capital and in the regions.
Russia, struggling with a rash of unrest across the former Soviet Union, including protests in neighbouring Belarus and fierce fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has a military base in Kyrgyzstan but has mostly stood aside from the political chaos in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. Moscow reached out to a senior security official offering help, but that official was then promptly fired. Beijing also said it was “highly concerned” about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, which shares a border with China’s sensitive Xinjiang region, and warned against foreign interference as the government in Bishkek is rocked by protests over rigged elections.
Acting Kyrgyz interior minister Kursan Asanov, who took over this week after running in the election as an opposition candidate, said police and civilians had managed to prevent mass looting in the capital. He vowed to stop any attempts to further destabilize the country where ethnic violence left hundreds dead after the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010 during another revolt. Asanov also urged parliament to convene and install a legitimate cabinet, describing the situation as stable but tense.
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