Vote annulment fails to lift pressure on Kyrgyz leader

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) –


Kyrgyzstan's pro-Moscow President Sooronbay Jeenbekov faced new pressure Wednesday after the annulment of the results of disputed elections failed to calm the latest bout of political unrest in the ex-Soviet state.

Jeenbekov has accused opposition forces of trying to seize power after protests against a parliamentary vote erupted into violence that left one dead and hundreds injured.

The results of the vote -- which showed parties close to Jeenbekov dominating parliament but which the opposition says was rigged -- were cancelled Tuesday by electoral authorities.

But the unrest has continued and there are now fears of a power struggle after a new prime minister, Sadyr Japarov, was installed a day after being freed from jail.

The crisis is the latest political turbulence to hit the nation of 6.5 million people that shares a border with China.

It is widely considered the most democratic state in ex-Soviet Central Asia, but has nonetheless been dogged by years of political volatility.

"We are hoping that things will resolve peacefully," Russian President Vladimir Putin told state television, adding that Russia hopes "normal democratic processes will resume ... as soon as possible."

Throughout the night, volunteer brigades took to the streets to defend businesses and public places from other groups that roamed through the capital, an AFP correspondent said.

Jeenbekov thanked the volunteers and urged opposition politicians to "return to the rule of law."

Media reports said a mob had tried to break into the offices of a company that operates the biggest Kyrgyz gold mine and whose revenues account for up to 10 percent of the nation's total output.

The building was later secured by a volunteer brigade.

Several gold and coal mines said they had to stop work owing to similar attacks.

- From jail to PM? -

On Tuesday, prime minister Kubatbek Boronov, an ally of Jeenbekov, resigned and lawmakers meeting in a hotel nominated Japarov as acting prime minister.

The house of parliament is under the control of volunteers loyal to Jeenbekov, with no sign of an official security presence.

Japarov was freed from jail by protesters late Monday during a tumultuous night of unrest that also saw former president Almazbek Atambayev released.

A parliamentary press spokesman said Wednesday that Japarov was the acting prime minister and had been elected with more than half the 120-member parliament's votes.

"But we are doing a recount as there is some disagreement," the spokesman added, without offering details.

Japarov said Wednesday that he was ready to talk with Jeenbekov but believed the president should resign.

"I believe that he himself should resign in order to settle the situation," Japarov told a press conference.

He rejected a self-styled "coordination council" of opposition parties including several political heavyweights that has said it is ready to bring stability to the country.

The country's ambassador to Britain asked media via Twitter to "refrain from assigning any official status to various reports about Kyrgyz government appointments until they are adopted by the parliament with required decorum and due process and confirmed by the head of state as required by law."

Adding to the president's woes, Atambayev, a former ally but now a bitter rival, was said to be planning a return to politics.

There were also fears of potential unrest in Osh, the site of ethnic clashes in 2010 that claimed hundreds of lives.

Melisbek Myrzakmatov, mayor of Osh at the time of the clashes, returned there on Tuesday.

That has fuelled speculation he will take over after the city's mayor resigned.