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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Explained: Why is Kyrgyzstan facing its worst political crisis in decades?

Kyrgyzstan’s president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, has declared a state of emergency in the capital till October 21, giving permission to the military to step in.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 12, 2020 11:14:25 am
Kyrgyzstan protests, why is Kyrgyzstan protesting, Kyrgyzstan election results, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Sadyr Japarov, Omurbek Babanov, express explained, indian expressSoldiers of the Kyrgyz army stand at a checkpoint on a city street in capital Bishkek, on October 10. (Photo: AP)

Over the past few days, Kyrgyzstan, the land-locked country that lies in Central Asia bordering China, has seen violent protests. Thousands of participants clashed with police forces in the country’s capital, Bishkek last week. Often referred to as the only democracy in the region, the country is witnessing one of its worst political crises in decades.

On Friday (October 9), Kyrgyzstan president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who came to power in 2017 after winning a vote share of over 54 per cent, declared a state of emergency in the capital till October 21, giving permission to the military to step in after a fresh set of clashes broke out between supporters of rival politicians. Jeenbekov went into hiding after protestors took over government buildings, including the presidential house.

How did the Kyrgyzstan protests erupt?

Protests erupted after the results of the parliamentary elections were declared earlier this month, with the Opposition and demonstrators alleging that the results were rigged. While this is the third unrest that the country has seen in the last 15 years, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), this political crisis is the most serious since a 2010 “revolution” overthrew the leadership.

Parliamentary elections were held in the country on October 4 and as per the preliminary results released on October 5, two pro-government parties were among the four that got at least seven per cent of the popular vote, which is required to enter the parliament. This meant that the parties allied with the government won nearly all the seats in the 120-seat chamber.

In total, 16 parties were contesting the elections. The opposition parties have made allegations that the winning parties indulged in vote-buying.

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So, what’s happening now?

Since the protests started, the elections have been annulled and will be re-held. As per a Reuters report, the protestors took over most of the government apparatus after the elections, halting some foreign gold mining operations that have evoked an expression of concern from Russia, Kyrgyzstan’s ally (the country became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and houses a Russian airbase currently).

On October 6, members of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament unanimously approved Sadyr Japarov as the country’s new prime minister, who was in detention but was freed by protestors last week. Japarov was charged for taking a governor hostage in 2013 when he led a protest in the town of Karakol.

Even so, this did not stop the violence, with supporters of Japarov hurling rocks at the supporters of his rival and would-be prime minister, Omurbek Babanov, as per a report in The New York Times. As of now, it is not clear if Japarov will serve the full term or will have to step down once new parliamentary elections are held.

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