MOSCOW (AP) – Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov announced his resignation on Thursday in a bid to end the turmoil that has engulfed the Central Asian state following disputed parliamentary elections.
Jeenbekov, who is facing calls to withdraw from protesters and political opponents, said in a statement issued by his office that retaining power is not worth “the integrity of our country and harmony in society.”
“For me, peace in Kyrgyzstan, the integrity of the country, the unity of our people and peace in society are above all,”
Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million people on the border with China, was thrown into chaos after the October 4th vote, which election officials said was swept away by pro-government parties. The opposition said the election was marred by vote buying and other irregularities.
Protesters then seized government buildings, looting some offices, and the Central Election Commission annulled the election. The opposition then announced plans to oust Jeenbekov and form a new government.
In the first few days after the vote, Jeenbekov behaved indecently, using the clashes between the protest leaders. He imposed a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, which was approved by parliament on Tuesday.
Authorities deployed troops in Bishkek over the weekend and imposed evening hours. The move eased tensions in the city, where residents feared looting accompanying previous uprisings and began forming vigilance groups to protect property. Shops and banks, which closed last week, have reopened.
In a bid to quell the unrest, Jeenbekov on Wednesday approved the appointment of Sadir Zhaparov, a former lawmaker released from prison by protesters last week, as the country’s new prime minister and new cabinet.
Japarov promised his supporters to demand Jeenbekov’s resignation and held talks with the president hours after Jeenbekov signed his appointment. After the talks, Jeenbekov said he would stay at work until the political situation in Kyrgyzstan stabilizes.
But hundreds of Zhaparov’s supporters gathered in the capital on Wednesday, demanding the president’s resignation and threatening to storm his residence. Japarov promised on Wednesday that he would meet again with the president on Thursday to persuade him to step down.
It was not immediately clear whether the meeting took place, but protests demanding Jeenbekov’s resignation continued on Thursday morning.
In a statement, Jeenbekov said the situation in Bishkek “remains tense” despite the fact that the new cabinet was appointed the day before and does not want to escalate the tension.
“There are protesters on one side and law enforcement on the other. Military personnel and law enforcement agencies are required to use weapons to protect the state residence. In this case, blood will be shed, it is inevitable, “Jeenbekov said in a statement. “I don’t want to go down in history as a president shooting at his own citizens and shedding blood.”
The turmoil marks the third time in 15 years that protesters have moved to overthrow a government in Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest nations that has left the former Soviet Union.
As in the uprisings that toppled the presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current protests were sparked by clan rivalry that shaped the country’s politics.