Kyrgyzstan names freed populist politician acting prime minister

Kyrgyz acting prime minister Sadyr Japarov holds a press conference at the Ala-Archa state residence in Bishkek on October 10, 2020.
Kyrgyz acting prime minister Sadyr Japarov holds a press conference at the Ala-Archa state residence in Bishkek on October 10, 2020. © Vyacheslav Oseledko, AFP

Kyrgyzstan's parliament on Saturday made a populist politician recently freed from jail prime minister, with Sadyr Japarov immediately saying he expected the country's embattled president to step down.


Hundreds of Japarov's supporters took to the streets of the capital Bishkek to celebrate, after a week that saw opposition supporters demonstrate and clash with police over a contested election on Sunday.

At least one person has died and over 1,000 have been injured in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country with close ties to Russia.

The violence also saw shots fired as groups of rival supporters clashed on Friday.

Japarov was made acting prime minister after a majority of lawmakers supported his candidacy at an extraordinary session of parliament.

He said he expected President Sooronbay Jeenbekov to resign "in two to three days" in comments at his confirmation on Saturday.

"I met with (Jeenbekov) here at the state residency. He said that after confirming the cabinet and government structures, he would resign," Japarov said at his confirmation.

>> Kyrgyz president 'ready to resign' as post-election turmoil continues

A deputy speaker at the extraordinary session on Saturday noted that Japarov would become acting president if Jeenbekov resigned.

The speaker of parliament would normally step in, but the post is currently unfilled.

Two sources in the parliament, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that they expected Jeenbekov to honour his pledge to step down.


Japarov, a former lawmaker with a reputation as a headstrong nationalist, and former president Almazbek Atambayev were freed from prisons by their supporters in the early hours of Tuesday, along with several other prominent politicians.

But whilst Japarov's political star appeared on the rise Friday, Atambayev was rearrested by police and security forces following a raid on his compound outside Bishkek.

"Special forces stormed (Atambayev's) compound" and "arrested the former president," his spokeswoman Kunduz Joldubayeva told AFP. The State Committee for National Security confirmed the arrest on fresh charges of organising mass disorder.

The committee added that it was currently "identifying and arresting other accomplices of this crime".

"Threat of murder and physical harm against judges and administrative employees" in jails had been used to free Atambayev and other politicians, including two former prime ministers, state prosecutors said Saturday.

The prosecutors urged the freed politicians to return and serve out their sentences, but did not mention Japarov.

Unrest in Kyrgyzstan has alarmed ally Moscow, which has watched neighbouring ally Belarus rocked by post-election protests and war break out over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was "deeply concerned" about the "situation resembling a mess and chaos" on Thursday.

Kyrgyzstan has seen two presidents overthrown by street protests since independence from the Soviet Union.

Leading player

Japarov emerged as a leading player in the crisis on Tuesday when he claimed the title of prime minister before Jeenbekov had signed off on the resignation of the old premier.

He was sentenced in 2017 to 11.5 years in jail on hostage-taking and other charges but that conviction was squashed by a court less than a day after his release.

Japarov's supporters defied police and security forces, who returned to the streets to enforce a ban on rallies imposed under a state of emergency for the capital ordered by Jeenbekov on Friday.

A famous local rapper who performs wearing a mask sang at the festivities as supporters, many of whom had arrived from outside the capital, danced and set off fireworks.

Some wore Sadyr Japarov caps while another man held a large banner reading "Sadyr is our president."

Shots fired

Lawmakers approved an almost unchanged cabinet Saturday, although Japarov said he planned to appoint young politicians to top posts in the future.

The new government is expected to be in place until the country holds fresh elections, after authorities cancelled the results of the first vote amid allegations of mass vote buying.

On Friday, shots were fired and at least five people injured in clashes between supporters of Japarov and a bloc of opposition parties that said it wants to form a government.

A car carrying Atambayev, who participated at the bloc's rally, was hit with "live ammunition" according to his spokeswoman Joldubayeva, who was also at the rally.

Video shared on social media showed a man firing at the car as Atambayev was evacuated from the clashes.

Japarov on Saturday denied responsibility for the violence and suggested that Atambayev's own bodyguard had shot at the former president's car.

Jeenbekov came to power in 2017 with support from Atambayev but the two fell out soon afterwards and Atambayev was jailed during a previous bout of political violence last year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom both men are loyal, failed in his attempt to resolve the pair's standoff.


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