Kyrgyz MPs put off re-run of election that sparked protests
MOSCOW (AP) — Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted Thursday to put off a re-run of contested parliamentary elections for after a constitutional reform that commentators say could allow the acting president — a politician recently freed from jail — to strengthen his grip on power and stay in office for a full term.
The move comes just a day after election officials set a re-run for Dec. 20 of a parliamentary election which was invalidated earlier this month amid mass protests.
The ex-Soviet nation of 6.5 million plunged into chaos after the Oct. 4 ballot was swept by pro-government parties. The results of a vote that serves for the election of lawmakers were dismissed by the opposition as manipulated. Crowds of demonstrators took over government offices, prompting election authorities to nullify the results of the vote.
Protesters also freed several politicians from jail, including Sadyr Zhaparov, who was quickly named the new prime minister after the cabinet resigned amid unrest. On Oct. 15, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov stepped down, pressured by Zhaparov and his supporters, and Zhaparov succeeded him as the acting head of state, while also remaining the country’s prime minister.
But according to the constitution, Zhaparov as acting head of state can’t run in the next presidential election expected in January.
Zhaparov said this week that parliament is working on “changes in the legislation on parliamentary and presidential elections,” and if these changes will allow him to run for president, he will.
It remained unclear whether these changes were outlined in the constitutional reform the parliament announced on Thursday — the lawmakers are yet to make the proposed amendments public. But the parliament voted to delay the parliamentary elections until the reform is completed, and Zhaparov has already signed the changes into law.
This month’s developments marked the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country on the border with China has been chased from power by a popular uprising. As in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the latest unrest was driven by clan rivalries that dominate the country’s politics.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union. A member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances, it hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support. It formerly was the site of a U.S. air base that was used in the war in Afghanistan.