Kyrgyz acting leader moves to consolidate power

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP) –


Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister and acting president Sadyr Japarov appointed a close ally as national security chief Friday, as he consolidated control over the Central Asian country rocked by unrest following a parliamentary vote.

Japarov appeared in parliament along with outgoing leader Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who resigned Thursday in a move that cleared a path for Japarov to assume the post of head of state as well as premier.

Jeenbekov became the third president of the volatile ex-Soviet state to resign since 2005 -- a move he said he hoped would spare the country further bloodshed.

But the high-speed transfer of powers to Japarov -- who was still in jail earlier this month -- has has raised European Union concerns over whether it was in line with country's constitution.

One person died and more than 1,200 people were injured during clashes between protesters and police after parliamentary elections on October 4, which opponents say were rigged by vote-buying schemes.

Japarov's appointment of Kamchibek Tashiyev -- a longtime confidant -- as head of the State National Security Council (GKNB) was confirmed by the government press service.

The committee is an important lever of influence for Kyrgyzstan's key partner Russia, as some GKNB officers train with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

But in a silence that may worry Japarov, Russia has yet to comment on Japarov's appointments as head of government and acting head of state.

Japarov has been accused of using supporters to intimidate politicians as he ascended to the top of government, securing the prime minister position just over a week after he was sprung from jail.

He was spending a second stint behind bars on a hostage-taking conviction dating back to 2013.

The conviction has since been reversed by a judge.

- 'Serious questions' -

Jeenbekov's immediate resignation was a key demand of Japarov's supporters, who have massed in the city since a protest against the vote results turned violent, opening up a power vacuum in the Central Asian state.

Since the speaker refused to inherit Jeenbekov's presidential powers, they passed to Japarov.

Speaking in parliament, Jeenbekov reaffirmed his resignation and said he was "clean before the Almighty and the people". MPs applauded him as he left the room.

Japarov pledged to oversee fresh parliamentary elections expected in December.

He told parliament that the government is "changing peacefully, and we should be grateful to God for that."

But a lawmaker who spoke afterwards warned Japarov that he would not be able to run for president as per the constitution and said it was unprecedented for a Kyrgyz official to hold both positions.

"Fate gives you such a test and opportunity. We wish you the best of luck and will support you," said Omurbek Tekebayev, who was seen as driving constitutional changes after the country's 2010 revolution.

Tekebayev also said that any attempt by Japarov to put forward Tashiyev or another ally at the presidential elections could diminish public trust in the vote.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell meanwhile said there were "serious questions" over whether the transfer of powers had taken place within a legal framework.

"The Kyrgyz Republic is a parliamentary democracy, and the division of powers therein should be respected and preserved," he said in a statement.

Central Election Commission head Nurzhan Shaildabekova said Friday that fresh parliament elections could be held on December 20, with a presidential vote a month later on January 17.

The dates have yet to be confirmed.

Kyrgyzstan has been dogged by volatility for much of the three decades since it became independent in 1991.

Recent unrest has worried Moscow, coming as post-election protests rock ex-Soviet Belarus and clashes persist over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.