Amid turmoil, Kyrgyzstan sets presidential vote for Jan. 10

Kyrgyzstan Protests

MOSCOW (AP) — Authorities in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday called an early presidential election for January after the nation's previous president was driven from power by protests triggered by a disputed vote.

The Oct. 4 parliamentary election was swept by pro-government parties and triggered protests by the opposition, who rejected the official results as rigged. Demonstrators freed several opposition leaders, including Sadyr Zhaparov, who was quickly named the new prime minister.

On Oct. 15, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov was forced to step down under pressure from demonstrators and Zhaparov became the acting head of state in Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest countries to emerge from the former Soviet Union.

The developments marked the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country on the border with China has been forced out by a popular uprising. In a similar way to the uprisings that ousted presidents in 2005 and 2010, the latest unrest was driven by clan rivalries that dominate the country’s politics.

The Central Election Commission on Saturday set the new presidential vote for Jan. 10 after the parliament that was supposed to do that failed to act due to a lack of quorum.

The constitution bars Zhaparov as the acting head of state from running for president in January’s vote, but he said parliament is working on legal changes that could allow him to seek the top office.

Amid the country's political turmoil, authorities on Wednesday set a new parliamentary election for Dec. 20 only to cancel the move the following day. No new date for the parliamentary vote has been set.

Kyrgyzstan, which is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances, hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support. It formerly was the site of a U.S. air base that was used in the war in Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced regret about the turmoil in Kyrgyzstan but said that Moscow wouldn't meddle in its affairs.

“I think current developments are a disaster for Kyrgyzstan and its people,” Putin said Thursday during a video call with international foreign policy experts. “Every time they have an election, they practically have a coup. This isn't even funny.”