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Two large crowds supporting rival politicians clashed in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on Friday, October 9, as a power vacuum persisted and President Sooronbay Jeenbekov said he was ready to resign.
The new clashes broke out after Jeenbekov imposed a state of emergency in the capital on Friday and said he would resign to end post-vote chaos.
A disputed parliamentary election sparked a fresh crisis in the Central Asian country, triggering protests and unrest that have left at least one dead and more than 1,000 injured.
But questions about Jeenbekov’s level of control over the situation persisted as tensions bubbled over between supporters of two factions that have promoted candidates for the vacant post of prime minister.
There has been little evidence of a central authority in Bishkek since a parliamentary vote in the ex-Soviet republic on Sunday, October 4, sparked protests that morphed into violent unrest.
On Friday, fist fights broke out after two hostile camps that are jostling to form a government converged in central Bishkek.
An Agence France-Presse correspondent saw supporters of one of the groups break windows of cars as security guards working for the rival group fired shots in the air, before key leaders were evacuated from the scene.
It was not immediately clear who initiated the conflict but the violence began when supporters of nationalist Sadyr Japarov, who has styled himself as prime minister, descended on a rally featuring speeches by a former president and former prime minister.
On Friday, Jeenbekov signed off on the resignation of the government in place before the election, which opposition parties say was rigged by massive vote-buying in favor of parties close to the president.
Election officials said a date for fresh elections would be set before November 6.
Jeenbekov, who has not appeared in public since Monday, October 5, said early on Friday he was prepared to step down once a new government is formed.
“After legitimate executive authorities have been approved and we are back on the path of lawfulness, I am ready to leave the post of President of the Kyrgyz Republic,” he said in a statement.
Later the same day he declared a 12-day state of emergency in Bishkek, including tight controls on movement in and out of the city.
But with opposition politicians claiming leadership posts in the interior ministry and state prosecutor’s office, analysts said it was not clear how Jeenbekov could enforce the state of emergency.
Supporters of various rival groups had gathered across the capital earlier in the day, each supporting its own faction or cause but none openly backing the Jeenbekov.
Japarov, a headstrong nationalist, says lawmakers backed his claim to be prime minister in a secretive vote in a hotel on Tuesday, October 6.
But Jeenbekov only signed off on the resignation of the cabinet and the previous prime minister 3 days later.
Japarov, who had been serving an 11.5-year jail sentence for hostage-taking, was freed by his allies during a night of tumult on Monday.
Former president Almazbek Atambayev and a host of his associates were also freed from custody.
Atambayev and former prime minister Omurbek Babanov, who have united in opposition to Jeenbekov and Japarov, addressed a rally of roughly 1,000 people on Friday.
An opposition bloc pushed for Babanov to become prime minister earlier in the day, a move that enraged Japarov supporters.
Russia as powerbroker
Russia is the dominant foreign power in Kyrgyzstan and has attempted to broker disputes in the past.
Stanislav Zas, the secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led security bloc, suggested the group could play a “mediating role.”
“We have that experience,” said Zas.
Moscow said earlier this week it had beefed up security at a military base near Bishkek.
If Jeenbekov were to resign, he would become the third leader from the former Soviet country to be felled by political unrest after uprisings unseated authoritarian presidents in 2005 and 2010.
He has been in power in Kyrgyzstan, which shares a border with China, since 2017. – Rappler.com