Kyrgyzstan: Lawmakers dispute new prime minister’s election as political crisis continues

BISHKEK  — Kyrgyzstan’s divided parliament has controversially appointed opposition politician Sadyr Japarov as prime minister, just days after the convicted kidnapper was sprung from prison during turmoil over the Central Asian country’s disputed parliamentary elections, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

Members of parliament and other political activists on October 11 questioned the legitimacy of the rump parliament session that elected Japarov.

Political unrest has gripped Kyrgyzstan since a parliamentary election on October 4 was tainted by allegations of vote-buying and fraud that benefited status quo parties, sparking angry street protests that resulted in the Central Elections Commission canceling the results and rival political forces vying for control.

The October 10 vote to approve Japarov came a day after embattled President Sooronbai Jeenbekov declared a state of emergency and put troops on the streets of the capital in response to unrest and violence during a week of whipsaw political developments.

The state of emergency began shortly after clashes on October 9 between Japarov supporters and backers of rival parties supporting former President Almazbek Atambayev and another prime minister candidate, Omurbek Babanov.

As he was leaving the unrest, shots were fired at Atambayev’s car.

Just like Japarov, demonstrators who seized government buildings after the election on October 6 released Atambayev from a prison where he was serving an 11-year sentence after being convicted of corruption in June.

But on October 10, security forces again arrested Atambayev on charges of organizing riots.

Hours after Atambayev’s detention, Jeenbekov’s allies in parliament gathered for an extraordinary session at his official residence outside of Bishkek.

Only around 50 members in the 120-seat parliament were present, but the deputy speaker of parliament said a quorum of 61 deputies had been reached after including individuals who obtained power-of-attorney documents from absent lawmakers.

Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Aida Kasymalieva said on October 11 that she left the session on the previous day in order to prevent a quorum and forestall a vote on Japarov’s candidacy, but that her vote had been cast illegally.

“We are preparing documents now to appeal to the courts,” she told RFE/RL, adding that parliament staff had not responded to her request for a list of lawmakers who voted for Japarov’s appointment.

In a later Facebook post, Kasymalieva said all decisions reached during the session were “illegal.”

Former Prime Minister Feliks Kulov asserted that the constitution requires the physical presence of a majority of deputies in order to form a quorum.

Japarov is a former nationalist member of parliament who says his 2017 conviction on charges of kidnapping a regional governor was politically motivated.

He previously was a senior member of the Kyrgyz government and an adviser to former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was overthrown in 2010.

Until supporters broke him out of prison on October 6, he was serving an 11 1/2-year sentence. A court struck down the verdict this week during the unrest.

Japarov said on October 10 that he would retain all government ministers who were still serving in an acting capacity after the previous prime minister, Kubatbek Boronov, was forced to resign on October 6 amid the demonstrations.

Japarov announced a 10-point program aimed at restoring stability, including protecting investors, ensuring food security, and “bringing to justice all officials involved in corruption.”

He also said he expected Jeenbekov to honor a pledge to resign once a government had been formed, which the president made as clashes between rival groups escalated earlier in the week.

“I met with [President] Sooronbai [Jeenbekov],” Japarov told the parliament session. “He said he would resign and leave. If you [lawmakers] approve the government’s program and makeup, then he said he would submit his [resignation] letter and leave.”

Lawmaker Kasymailieva told RFE/RL that Jeenbekov should remain at his post until a “legitimate” government is in place.

Earlier on October 10, Jeenbekov sacked top security officials who had either supported his opponents or failed to intervene when the opposition earlier in the week claimed it was seizing power.