(Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s president resigned on Thursday after days of unrest following a disputed election, becoming the country’s third leader to be toppled in a popular uprising since 2005.
Supporters of Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov attend a rally in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Here are some key facts about the former Soviet republic and its turbulent recent history.
WHAT HAS TRIGGERED THE CURRENT CRISIS?
– Official results of an Oct. 4 parliamentary election awarded victory to two establishment parties, but opposition parties denounced the results as fraudulent.
– Kyrgyz security forces used teargas and water cannon to disperse protesters but President Jeenbekov ordered them not to open fire after one person was killed and nearly 700 people injured. Protesters stormed government buildings, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov’s government quit and the election commission annulled the vote.
– Several rival groups claimed leadership, including the Ata Zhurt and Mekenchil parties whose candidate for prime minister, Sadyr Japarov, was freed from jail by the protesters on Oct. 6.
– Japarov was ultimately voted in by parliament and confirmed as prime minister by Jeenbekov on Oct. 14, after which he demanded that the president resign immediately.
– Jeenbekov stepped down on Oct. 15 saying he wanted to prevent deadly clashes between Japarov’s supporters marching on his compound and security forces.
– Presidential powers would pass to parliament speaker Kanatbek Isayev, but some Japarov supporters called for him to resign too, which would concentrate power in the hands of the premier.
WHY DOES THE TURMOIL MATTER?
– Kyrgyzstan, which borders three other ex-Soviet republics and China, has long been a focus for geopolitical competition between Beijing, Moscow and Washington.
– It houses a Russian military base and its leaders and main opposition groups have traditionally backed close ties with Moscow. Under Russian pressure, Kyrgyzstan in 2014 shut down a U.S. military base that had supplied U.S. troops in nearby Afghanistan since 2001.
– Most of Kyrgyzstan’s 6.5 million people are Turkic-speaking Muslims. Moscow, Washington and Beijing are all concerned about the possible advance of radical Islam from Afghanistan into Central Asia.
– A member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, Kyrgyzstan is economically very reliant on remittances from an estimated 1 million Kyrgyz migrant labourers working in Russia.
– China is the biggest foreign investor, though projects such as the construction of a highway linking the north and south of Kyrgyzstan have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Kyrgyzstan is also an important regional hub for Chinese consumer goods trade.
– Western, Russian, Chinese and Turkish companies are involved in mining Kyrgyzstan’s rich gold deposits. The Russian-controlled company operating Kyrgyzstan’s second biggest gold mine said it had suspended operations after intruders smashed and torched facilities.
– London-listed Kaz Minerals has suspended operations at its Bozymchak gold and copper mine in Kyrgyzstan, but reported no attacks.
– Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mining operation, Kumtor, run by Canada’s Centerra Gold, has so far reported no serious security incidents. Centerra said it was monitoring political events but that its operations were continuing uninterrupted.
TURBULENT RECENT HISTORY
– Kyrgyzstan became independent after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The first post-Soviet president, Askar Akayev, was deposed by a revolt in 2005 and now lives in Moscow where he holds a university post as a mathematics professor.
– Akayev’s successor, Kurmbanbek Bakiyev, was similarly toppled in an uprising in 2010, and now lives in exile in Belarus.
– More than 400 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010.
– A third former president, Almazbek Atambayev, fell out with his successor, Jeenbekov, and was jailed on corruption charges. Protesters freed him last week but he was detained again within days.
Compiled by Gareth Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich