Kyrgyzstan: PM declares he is acting president after President Jeenbekov resigns

BISHKEK — Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov told a crowd of his supporters outside the government building in Bishkek late on October 15 that the president has resigned and that he is acting president now.

Japarov’s declaration came hours after President Sooronbai Jeenbekov announced his resignation via his official website in the face of mass protests against the official results of parliamentary elections on October 4 that handed victory to political parties associated with Jeenbekov and his government, RFE/RL reported.

“Former President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has resigned. The parliament speaker said it was impossible to perform [the president’s] duties and resigned. Today, the duties of the acting president and the prime minister have passed to me,” Japarov told the crowd. “Thank you very much, you can go home now.”

He added: “I will be taking over the acting president’s and prime minister’s roles.”

In a statement on his website earlier in the day, President Jeenbekov said that he had decided to resign “because peace and unity in our country is more important than any post.”

He would be the third Kyrgyz president in 15 years to be pushed out of office during a popular upheaval.

“I am not holding onto power. I do not want to be known in the history of Kyrgyzstan as a president who spilled blood and shot at his own citizens,” he said. “So I decided to resign.”

Jeenbekov said that despite his approval of parliament’s decision a day earlier to elect Japarov as the country’s new prime minister, “the aggressive moods did not disappear and calls for my resignation continued.”

His statement noted that protesters and law enforcement officers were “currently on the edge of clashes” and should “stay away from provocations.”

Jeenbekov also called on supporters of Japarov and other political figures to stop ongoing rallies to ease tensions.

Japarov was released from a prison in the initial days of mass protests sparked by allegations of vote-buying and other improprieties during the October 4 parliamentary elections. Japarov was serving a lengthy term after being convicted of kidnapping in 2017.

His supporters continued rallies in downtown Bishkek after Jeenbekov’s resignation was made public, this time chanting “Japarov is our president!”

They were also demanding parliament’s dissolution and the resignation of Speaker Kanatbek Isaev.

Isaev was voted in as parliament speaker on October 13 in what appeared to be a move to make way for a transition to ease the postelection tensions.

According to the Kyrgyz Constitution, before the election of a new president, parliament’s speaker is to run the country as acting president.

But Isaev told the online media outlet 24.kg that he had “no moral right” to the presidency because of the lame duck status of the parliament, which faces a rerun of the disputed election.

Some lawmakers suggested on October 15 that they would believe the president had stepped down only after he appeared in public to confirm that he resigned of his own free will.

They said their skepticism was fueled by the insistence of about a dozen politicians, who met with Jeenbekov early in the morning on October 15, and said he told them that he was not going to step down and planned to stay in office until a new parliament was elected.

Japarov’s October 14 confirmation as prime minister moved Kyrgyzstan toward resolving the crisis sparked by the demonstrations over the official results of October 4 parliamentary elections.

The election results were annulled after protesters — angry at signs of vote-buying and other improprieties during the election — seized government buildings on October 6.