Kyrgyz President Strengthens Hold on Power as New PM Named

Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov strengthened his grip on power on Saturday, reshuffling senior security officials and having his principal opponent, ex-president Almazbek Atambayev, detained again just days after he left prison.The president’s allies in parliament elected a new prime minister, taking a step towards emerging from what close ally Russia has described as a state of political chaos.Kyrgyzstan, which hosts a Russian military airbase and serves as a hub for trade with neighboring China, has been gripped by unrest since Oct. 4, the date of a contested election that was subsequently annulled.Lawmakers voted in the only candidate for premier, 51-year-old Sadyr Zhaparov, who some opposition factions accused of being in league with Jeenbekov.Jeenbekov on Friday ordered troops to deploy and re-establish order amid flare-ups of violence, and military checkpoints were put up overnight around the capital Bishkek while personnel carriers were spotted in the city.He fired top security council officials who had either supported his opponents or failed to intervene when the opposition said on Tuesday it was seizing power in the Central Asian nation.More than 1,200 people have been injured and one person has been killed in clashes that erupted on Monday following the election, in which establishment parties had claimed a landslide victory.With the parliament building ransacked by protesters, lawmakers gathered on Saturday in the presidential residence on the outskirts of Bishkek to vote in Zhaparov.He previously served as adviser to another former president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was succeeded by Atambayev in 2011.Atambayev’s supporters had on Tuesday secured his release from prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence for corruption, and said he survived an assassination attempt on Friday.The state security service said it had rearrested Atambayev on charges of inciting unrest. The ex-president is Jeenbekov’s former patron and now his arch-enemy.Prior to his appointment as premier, Zhaparov called for constitutional reforms before fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.He told parliament that Jeenbekov had reaffirmed to him his intention to resign once a new cabinet was approved. Zhaparov said he would make no changes to the cabinet line-up.Before parliament voted on Zhaparov’s candidacy, speaker Myktybek Abdyldayev resigned, meaning Zhaparov would also assume presidential powers if Jeenbekov resigned.Zhaparov’s supporters had clashed on Friday with followers of a few other parties which nominated their own candidate for PM, Omurbek Babanov.Kyrgyzstan’s opposition is divided between 11 parties that represent clan interests. The country has seen two presidents toppled by popular revolts since 2005.The former Soviet republic, which has a population of just 6.5 million, is also home to a large Canadian-owned mining operation. 



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