Kyrgyz president asks parliament to vote again on PM amid crisis

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) –


Kyrgyzstan's president on Tuesday asked parliament to vote again on a new prime minister after MPs backed Sadyr Japarov, a nationalist politician recently freed from jail by supporters after a disputed vote.

Embattled president Sooronbay Jeenbekov met Japarov and said he would not approve his appointment, citing doubts that rules were adhered to during a vote by lawmakers, the presidential administration said in a statement.

The move came shortly after a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the restive Central Asian state for talks aimed at resolving the political crisis following disputed parliamentary polls on October 4.

Japarov was serving jail time for hostage-taking and other crimes until he was freed in a night of political mayhem last week along with other imprisoned politicians.

MPs voted for him to become acting prime minister on Saturday, but several lawmakers have raised concerns about the session that endorsed Japarov and his cabinet, citing a lack of quorum.

"To maintain and strengthen stability in the country, all our decisions must be legitimate and not be questioned," Jeenbekov was quoted as saying in the statement.

Over 1,200 people were injured and one killed in violent protests that broke out after the disputed polls.

The opposition and observers reported widespread buying of votes by parties close to Jeenbekov in the election.

The results of the poll were annulled in the wake of the violence and Jeenbekov declared a state of emergency in the capital Bishkek.

On Friday he offered to resign once order was restored and a new government formed. Many observers viewed the pledge as a diversionary tactic. Japarov has said he expects Jeenbekov to step down.

- Putin's aide visits -

Putin's deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak visited the ex-Soviet state on Monday, meeting both President Jeenbekov and Japarov, a statement released by the office of the Kyrgyz president said.

The Russian embassy said on Tuesday that the "key role of the head of state" in ensuring Kyrgyzstan's future development was emphasised in Kozak's meeting with Jeenbekov.

The visit was Moscow's first visible intervention in the crisis after post-vote protests degenerated into clashes, paralysing the central government as rival groups jockeyed for power.

Unrest in Kyrgyzstan has worried its ally Russia, coming as post-election protests rock ex-Soviet neighbour Belarus and clashes persist over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

Japarov's candidacy has raised fears over the role of criminal groups in politics, especially after his supporters were seen behaving aggressively in Bishkek and issuing threats to media.

The politician himself has denied that he has any underworld ties.

Hundreds of citizens rallied against organised crime on Friday, as he pressed his claim to lead the government.

On Tuesday, the United States embassy called the attempts of criminal groups to exert influence over local politics and the elections "one of the obstacles towards democratic progress".

"Citizens and their leaders must continue to fight against the influence of organised crime and corruption in politics," it said in a statement.

- New speaker boosts president -

It was not clear when parliament would gather again to vote on a new prime minister. The legislature on Friday elected Kanat Isayev, whose party is viewed as loyal to Jeenbekov, as speaker.

This move appears to have boosted the president's position and allayed fears that Japarov, a headstrong nationalist, could become acting president in the event of Jeenbekov's resignation.

According to the constitution, presidential powers pass to the parliamentary speaker if the president steps down before his term ends.

Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked republic of 6.5 million people, has had two presidents overthrown by street protests since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.