MOSCOW (AP) – Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov announced his resignation on Thursday in a bid to end the unrest that has ravaged the Central Asian nation after contested parliamentary elections.
Jeenbekov, who has been called upon to withdraw from protesters and political opponents, said in a statement released by his office that retaining power was not worth “the integrity of our country and harmony in society”.
“For me, peace in Kyrgyzstan, the integrity of the country, the unity of our people and calm in society are above all else,” Jeenbekov said.
Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million people on the border with China, was plunged into chaos following an Oct. 4 vote that election officials said was swept away by parties pro-government. The opposition said the election was marred by vote buying and other irregularities.
Protesters then took control of government buildings, looted some offices, and the Central Election Commission annulled the election. The opposition then announced plans to oust Jeenbekov and form a new government.
Jeenbekov kept a low profile in the first days after the vote, using infighting between the protest leaders to dig. He introduced a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, which was approved by parliament on Tuesday.
Authorities deployed troops to Bishkek over the weekend and imposed a curfew. The move eased tensions in the city, where residents feared the looting that accompanied previous uprisings and began to form vigilante groups to protect property. Stores and banks closed last week have reopened.
In an effort to stem the unrest, Jeenbekov on Wednesday approved the appointment of Sadyr Zhaparov, a former lawmaker who was released from prison by protesters last week, as the country’s new prime minister and Zhaparov’s new cabinet.
Zhaparov promised his supporters to push for Jeenbekov’s resignation and spoke with the president hours after Jeenbekov signed his nomination. After the talks, Jeenbekov said he would stay in office until the political situation in Kyrgyzstan stabilizes.
But hundreds of Zhaparov supporters gathered in the capital on Wednesday, demanding the president’s resignation and threatening to storm his residence. Zhaparov on Wednesday promised that he would meet with the president again on Thursday to convince him to resign.
It was not immediately clear whether the meeting had taken place, but protests demanding Jeenbekov’s resignation continued on Thursday morning.
Jeenbekov said in his statement that the situation in Bishkek “remains tense” despite the fact that the new cabinet was appointed the day before and does not want to escalate these tensions.
“On the one hand, there are the demonstrators, on the other – the police. Military personnel and law enforcement agencies are required to use weapons to protect state residence. In this case, blood will flow, it is inevitable, ”said the statement from Jeenbekov. “I don’t want to make history as a president who shot his own citizens and spilled blood.
The turmoil marks the third time in 15 years that protesters have moved to overthrow a government in Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union.
As with the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, current protests are driven by clan rivalries that shape the country’s politics.