MOSCOW – Kyrgyzstan's embattled president on Wednesday dismissed a call to step down, saying he would stay on the job until the political situation in the Central Asian country stabilizes after a disputed parliamentary election.
President Sooronbai Jeenbekov held talks with Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov hours after he endorsed his appointment by parliament. Zhaparov, a former lawmaker who was freed from jail by demonstrators protesting the Oct. 4 parliamentary election results, has demanded Jeenbekov's resignation.
Jeenbekov insisted that stepping down now could trigger “unpredictable developments to the detriment of the state,” his office said. It emphasized that he will only agree to resign after “he takes the country back into the legal field, after holding parliamentary and calling presidential elections.”
About 1,000 Zhaparov supporters rallied on the central square of the capital of Bishkek despite a ban on demonstrations amid a state of emergency introduced by Jeenbekov. The crowd chanted for the president to “Go away!” and dispersed late in the evening to respect a curfew but vowed to return Thursday.
Zhaparov said he will meet again with Jeenbekov on Thursday to persuade him to step down.
The parliament nominated Zhaparov on Wednesday after Jeenbekov refused to endorse his appointment Saturday by lawmakers who met without a quorum. The president quickly approved Zhaparov for the job on Wednesday.
Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million people located on the border with China, was plunged into chaos following the Oct. 4 vote that was swept by pro-government parties. The opposition said the election was tainted by vote-buying and other irregularities.
Protesters then took over government buildings, looting some offices, and the Central Election Commission nullified the election. Jeenbekov kept a low profile in the first few days after the vote, using the infighting among protest leaders to dig in. He introduced a state of emergency in the capital that was endorsed Tuesday by parliament.
Authorities deployed troops to Bishkek over the weekend and introduced the curfew. The move eased tensions in the city, where residents feared looting that accompanied previous uprisings and began forming vigilante groups to protect property. Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.
The turmoil marks the third time in 15 years that demonstrators have moved to oust a government in Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest nations to emerge from the former Soviet Union.
As in the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current protests have been driven by clan rivalries that shape the country’s politics.
Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.