Unrest brews in Kyrgyzstan as political crisis deepens

Unrest brews in Kyrgyzstan as political crisis deepens

Kyrgyzstan slid deeper into chaos as rival opposition factions made grabs for power on Wednesday, a day after they stormed government buildings, forcing the prime minister to quit and a parliamentary election to be annulled.

There was also more unrest overnight, with reports of scuffles and clashes between people in the capital. Bishkek residents, who went through violent revolts followed by looting in 2005 and 2010, have quickly formed vigilante neighbourhood watch units to reinforce police.

The vigilantes scuffled with protesters who tried to force their way into government buildings or attacked businesses such as shops and restaurants, according to the 24.kg report.

A group set up by several Kyrgyz opposition parties, the People’s Coordination Council Opposition, said on Wednesday it was assuming all state powers and dissolving parliament.

On Tuesday, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament agreed to nominate opposition politician Sadyr Zhaparov – freed from prison by protesters hours earlier – for prime minister, but an angry mob then broke into the hotel where it convened, forcing Zhaparov to flee through a back door, according to Kyrgyz media.

In a television interview, PM nominee Zhaparov said he would propose a constitutional reform before holding presidential and parliamentary elections in two to three months.

Zhaparov said he did not yet have the backing of a coordination council formed by several major opposition groups, suggesting there were tensions between the allies. It was unclear when parliament could convene to approve his appointment as prime minister.

Zhaparov’s opposition Mekenchil party has refused to recognise the council.

Meanwhile, left isolated by the resignation of Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov’s government late on Tuesday, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov called for all-party talks during an interview with the BBC.

Opposition groups took control of most of the government apparatus on Tuesday after storming buildings during post-election protests, but Jeenbekov clung to power.

On Wednesday morning, news website Akipress quoted Bishkek police as saying that the city was calm.

But reports indicated that unrest was spreading beyond the capital with several gold and coal mines – critical to the threadbare state budget – seized or damaged by marauders.

Banks and many shops and restaurants were closed in central Bishkek, with storeowners removing their goods over looting fears.

Protests broke out on Monday after early results showed two establishment parties, one of them close to President Jeenbekov, had swept Sunday’s parliamentary election, in a contest that was marred by allegations of vote-buying.

Authorities annulled the results on Tuesday, necessitating a rerun of the vote in the nation of 6.5 million which borders China and hosts a Russian military airbase and a large Canadian-owned gold mining operation.