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Kyrgyzstan opposition divided amid political chaos, protests

MOSCOW (AP) — Opposition parties in Kyrgyzstan failed to form a new government Wednesday as different groups argued over who would be the new prime minister after three days of political chaos in the Central Asian country.

Mass protests erupted in the capital of Bishkek on Monday following a weekend parliamentary election that appeared to show parties connected to the ruling elite winning. Opposition supporters seized several government buildings, looting some offices, and the Central Election Commission responded by nullifying the results of Sunday’s balloting.

Members of some opposition parties said they would oust President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and form a new government. Lawmakers on Tuesday night announced the resignation of Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov and nominated former lawmaker Sadyr Zhaparov to replace him.

They also selected a candidate for parliament speaker, who later clarified that Zhaparov’s candidacy is to be approved by parliament after he presents his proposals for a new cabinet as well as his policies.

Local media said the lawmakers didn’t have a quorum and used proxy votes of other parliament members to approve new appointments. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the changes were legal under the constitution in Kyrgyzstan, where popular uprisings since 2005 have chased two presidents from power.

Several opposition parties rejected Zhaparov’s candidacy, and another candidate emerged on Wednesday — Tilek Toktogaziyev, a young entrepreneur. Toktogaziyev was put forward by a coordination council formed by opposition politicians and activists, media reports said.

Kyrgyz media reported that Zhaparov called himself “a legitimate prime minister” appointed “by the parliament’s majority” at a news conference and said he was “already working, coordinating the situation.”

At the same time, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti cited the press service of the Kyrgyz government as saying that Boronov will remain acting prime minister until Jeenbekov accepts his resignation.

Jeenbekov hasn’t confirmed Boronov’s resignation so far, and the government’s website still lists him as prime minister.
Crowds gathered in central Bishkek on Wednesday, protesting Zhaparov’s nomination and demanding Jeenbekov’s impeachment. Zhaparov’s supporters rallied in front of the government headquarters.

Lawmakers convened again in the evening to discuss the situation, according to media reports.

In a statement, Jeenbekov urged all political forces to “get back to (acting) within the law,” but he didn’t comment on attempts to appoint a new prime minister.

In another statement later Wednesday, Jeenbekov said he was committed to resolving the political crisis and was in talks with “various political forces,” but none of them suggested a “unified platform for negotiations.”

He also noted that “the process of dismissals and appointments to different top (government) posts” needs to be “made legitimate.”

“The parliament should submit appropriate resolutions … for me to sign (into) presidential decrees,” his statement said. “It’s been three days since the country submerged into this political crisis because of some political forces’ actions … I fully understand your demands to resolve this situation.”

The unrest in Kyrgyzstan followed the announcement of election returns favoring two parties — one said to be closely aligned with Jeenbekov and another linked to a former top customs official — amid reports of vote-buying and other ballot fraud. Police dispersed Monday’s protests with water cannons, tear gas and flash grenades, and health officials said one person died in the clashes, and about 700 were injured.

The country of 6.5 million, one of the poorest to emerge from the former Soviet Union, is strategically located on the border with China and once was home to a U.S. air base that was used for refueling and logistics for the war in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian air base and maintains close ties with Moscow.

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