Kyrgyzstan’s president declares state of emergency amid protests

Kyrgyzstan’s president declares state of emergency amid protests
People protest during a rally on the central square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Officials in Kyrgyzstan have nullified the results of a weekend parliamentary election after mass protests erupted in the capital of Bishkek and other cities, with opposition supporters seizing government buildings and demanding a new vote. (AP Photo/Vladimir Voronin)

The embattled president of Kyrgyzstan has ordered a state of emergency in the capital in a bid to end the political turmoil sparked by a disputed parliamentary election.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov decreed that the measure starting from 8pm on Friday until 8am on October 21 could include a curfew and travel restrictions.

He also ordered the military to deploy troops to Bishkek to enforce it.

Mr Jeenbekov has faced calls to step down from hundreds of protesters who stormed government buildings the night after Sunday’s parliamentary vote was reportedly swept by pro-government parties.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov (Vladimir Voronin/AP)

The demonstrators also freed former president Almazbek Atambayev, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in June on charges of corruption and abuse of office that he and his supporters described as a political vendetta by Mr Jeenbekov.

It is the third time in 15 years that protesters have moved to topple a government in Kyrgyztsan. Like in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current protests have been driven by clan rivalries that play a key role in the Central Asian nation’s politics.

Following an initial attempt to break up protests immediately after the vote, police pulled back and refrained from intervening with the demonstrations. It remains unclear whether the police and the military will follow Mr Jeenbekov’s orders.

Under pressure from protesters, the Central Election Commission has overturned the vote results and protest leaders moved quickly to form a new government.

Protesters near government headquarters in Bishkek (Vladimir Voronin/AP)

An emergency parliament session on Tuesday named legislator Sadyr Zhaparov as a new prime minister, but the move was immediately contested by other protest groups, plunging the country into chaos.

Mr Atambayev spoke to demonstrators who flooded central Bishkek on Friday, urging them to refrain from violence.

“I’m against using force, everything should be done by peaceful means,” he said.

Soon after he spoke, supporters of Mr Zhaparov attacked Mr Atambayev’s supporters, throwing stones and bottles.

A man with a pistol fired several shots at Mr Atambayev’s car as it sped away, but the former president was unhurt. Another politician was badly injured in the clashes.

Mr Jeenbekov has used infighting between his foes to dig in. He said on Thursday he may consider stepping down, but only after the political situation stabilises.

The country of 6.5 million, one of the poorest to emerge from the former Soviet Union, is strategically located on the border with China and once was home to a US air base used for refuelling and logistics for the war in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian air base and maintains close ties with Moscow.

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