Lawmakers challenge new Kyrgyz prime minister as besieged president told to stay

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Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP)

Kyrgyzstan’s acting prime minister picked a new police chief on Sunday, ignoring lawmakers challenging his legitimacy as the besieged president of the Central Asian country weighs his resignation.

Sadyr Japarov on Sunday signed an order appointing a new interior minister, Ulan Niyazbekov, following the resignation of the former police chief following the unrest sparked by the disputed elections last week.

Elected on Saturday during an extraordinary session of Parliament, Sadyr Japarov was serving a prison sentence for hostage-taking until Tuesday morning.

Supporters released the nationalist politician from prison after protests over the contested October 4 parliamentary elections in the crisis-stricken former Soviet country turned violent.

Polls saw parties close to President Sooronbay Jeenbekov claiming the most seats after reports of massive vote buying, and election officials canceled the vote on Tuesday.

One person was killed and more than 1,000 were injured in clashes with police and between rival factions, with the central government virtually losing control.

Residents were returning to cafes and strolling through a green central artery of the capital Bishkek on Sunday, an AFP correspondent noted.

No notice appeared to confirm Japarov’s appointment on the official website of Jeenbekov – who is himself embroiled in a long power struggle.

Immediately after his election as interim prime minister, Japarov said he expected the beleaguered president to resign “in two or three days.”

If he did, Japarov would become interim president, as the parliament currently has no president who would usually intervene.

– ‘Not afraid’ –

Several lawmakers opposed Japarov’s election on Saturday, saying it was invalid because parliament did not have the numbers for a quorum at the time of the vote.

“None of the decisions taken by (Japarov) as Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic has the force of law,” Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aida Kasymaliyeva wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

She added that she had received threats from a lawmaker loyal to Japarov, Urmat Samayev.

Addressing Samayev, nicknamed “Champion”, Kasymaliyeva said: “I am not afraid of you. I always use public transport and walk alone. If anything happens to my daughter, my family, then it’s all written here. ”

Kasymaliyeva, loyal to Jeenbekov, also criticized lawmakers present at Saturday’s session for their endorsement of Japarov.

“How disgusting to see these men kissing. Vile sycophants on their knees bent. The whole country saw what you were doing at the session when we lost our statehood.

Kasymaliyeva is one of several high-ranking politicians who are said to have called on Jeenbekov to stay in power.

The president did not comment on Japarov’s election, but said on Friday he could step down once order is restored and a new government is formed.

A state official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that the country’s third president, Roza Otunbayeva, spoke to Jeenbekov on Sunday in an attempt to prevent him from resigning.

“She urged him to stay put,” the official said.

Kyrgyzstan has seen two presidents overthrown by street protests since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Otunbayeva, a career diplomat, took over the country’s interim leadership in 2010 after the second of these uprisings, and has made few forays into politics since his retirement.

– Organized crime –

Japarov’s conviction was overturned by a court after his release.

But his emergence as a leading player in the post-vote chaos was seen as a key factor behind a rally of hundreds against organized crime on Friday.

Japarov said media reports linking him to organized crime were part of a campaign to “blacken my name”.

Asked during his confirmation on Saturday about threats made by his supporters to the media who had covered the alleged links, Japarov did not regret.

“I have read such information myself, you have distorted certain information. Maybe that’s why there were threats, ”he told reporters.

The unrest in Kyrgyzstan has added to concerns for ally Russia, as Belarus is rocked by post-election protests and clashes erupt in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

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