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Kyrgyzstan's president announces resignation in wake of disputed election

Kyrgyzstan's president announces resignation in wake of disputed election
© Getty Images

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov announced Thursday he is resigning from his post after unrest erupted over a disputed election.

His resignation makes him the third leader of Kyrgyzstan since 2005 to leave office during unrest, and his departure leaves a power vacuum in the Central Asian nation.

It was not immediately clear who would take his place, but under law, presidential authority would go to Parliament Speaker Kanatbek Isayev. However, government critics have said Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov, a nationalist who was released from jail just last week to try to quell the unrest, should take over and that Isayev too should leave office.

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Jeenbekov said he was stepping down to try to avoid bloodshed between demonstrators and the military after protests erupted over a disputed parliamentary election. The Oct. 4 contests gave victories to pro-government parties, but opposition groups claimed the election was rigged.

“In this case, blood will be shed. It is inevitable,” Jeenbekov said in a statement. “I don’t want to go down in history as a president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens.”

While demonstrators celebrated the announcement, it was not immediately clear that Jeenbekov’s resignation would quell tensions in the country given lingering questions over his successor.

The country of 6.5 million is one of the poorest former Soviet satellite states and houses a Russian military base. It is the latest former Soviet bloc to be thrust into turmoil, as Belarus sees similar protests against its authoritarian leader and Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over a disputed territory.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted that it will “continue to closely monitor developments in friendly #Kyrgyzstan, hoping that the situation will stabilise soon within the framework of the constitution and national laws.”