Kyrgyz Leader Tightens Controls as Political Fighting Escalates

Kyrgyzstan’s President Sooronbay Jeenbekov banned demonstrations and imposed a curfew in the capital on Saturday a day after declaring martial law to curtail unrest as political fighting intensified following disputed parliamentary elections.

Jeenbekov sought to tighten restrictions in the capital, ordering people off the streets of Bishkek from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, in an attempt to reassert his authority after demonstrators protesting the results of Sunday’s election overran the parliament building and released politician Sadyr Zhaparov and ex-President Almazbek Atambayev from prison.

The outgoing parliament unanimously voted to approve Zhaparov as prime minister on Saturday, confirming a new government, according to local news website 24.kg. On Tuesday, Zhaparov, who’d been convicted of taking a regional governor hostage in 2013, had been nominated in an emergency session that set off further protests. Clashes between his supporters and Atambayev’s turned violent Friday with shots fired at the former leader’s car, according to the Interfax news service.

Zhaparov told reporters on Saturday that he expects Jeenbekov to resign within two or three days, Interfax said. After the speaker of parliament stepped down Saturday, Zhaparov, as prime minister, would be next in line to succeed as president.

Jeenbekov had said Friday that he’d leave office once the nation established legitimate executive power and the situation stabilized.

Atambayev was detained by security forces on Saturday afternoon on charges of organizing riots in the capital, according to his adviser Kunduz Joldubayeva. Atambayev, who backed Jeenbekov’s election in 2017, was later charged with abuse of power and sentenced to 11 years in prison, which he’s said was politically motivated.

Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million, is one of the poorest countries in central Asia, economically reliant on remittances from workers abroad, agriculture and minerals production. A close Russian ally, the country is a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Union. Two of its presidents have been toppled by popular protests since 2005. Transparency International ranks the country 126 out of 180 in its index of perceptions of corruption.

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