Prague, 30 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The upper house of the Kyrgyz parliament today overwhelmingly approved Nikolai Tanaev -- an ethnic Russian -- to be the country's new prime minister.
Tanaev, proposed by President Askar Akaev, was elected by 36 votes, with five votes against. Kurmanbek Osmonov, a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Kyrgyz parliament, became first deputy prime minister.
Tanaev is the first ethnic Russian to lead the Kyrgyz cabinet since independence in 1991. Tanaev, who is 57, was born in Russia's Penza Oblast and attended engineering school in Kazakhstan.
Formerly the first deputy prime minister, Tanaev was appointed last week as acting prime minister after Kurmanbek Bakiev resigned in the aftermath of a report alleging wrongdoing by police to quell a recent demonstration. The report concluded that firearms were used illegally to end demonstrations in the southern Aksy Raion in March. Six civilians were killed in the worst public violence since independence.
The protests were sparked by the arrest of parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov in January and have shaken Akaev's government.
Akaev said Tanaev's first mission will be to unite the by through improving human rights. "A new idea of national democracy has to coincide with the national idea that Kyrgyzstan is our common house. We have to learn a lesson from the tragedy of Aksy. The idea of human rights and democratic liberties has to be openly proclaimed. And we have to put them above everything," the president said.
Tanaev stressed today that human rights will be his government's top priority. "The most important [thing] is the respect of human rights, and collaboration with nongovernmental organizations, public organizations, parties, and every citizen."
The situation in the country remains volatile, and it's not clear Tanaev's appointment will placate the opposition.
Tursunbay Bokir Uulu, leader of the opposition Erkin Kyrgyzstan party, pointed out that Tanaev does not speak the local language, Kyrgyz. He also noted that Tanaev, as deputy prime minister, was part of the old government. He said Tanaev therefore should not be chosen to lead a new one.
"The president's decision is not right: first, because the previous government has resigned and those who were part of this government cannot be members of the new one; second, if he has been living for so long in Kyrgyzstan, why doesn't he speak our language? The essential [issue] for Akaev was to choose a man who cannot become president," Uulu said.
Adaham Madumarov, an opposition parliamentarian, says Akaev was simply trying to please Russia ahead of a trip next week to St. Petersburg. "It is one of the president's numerous tricks. He is going to St. Petersburg [on 7 June for the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization], and each time he travels, he is ready to behave like a servant."
But Aidar Kerimkulov, a pro-government deputy, said he believes Tanaev has the skills to carry out a national process of unification. "I think our dear and esteemed president has made a sound decision, because Kyrgyzstan is a multicultural country. And it is fair that the man who has been nominated as prime minister has such experience, especially when we need unification."
In order to calm critics, Akaev conducted consultations earlier with representatives of both chambers of the parliament after the resignation of the government. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) welcomed the meetings as a step toward stabilizing the political situation.
Akaev is expected to meet with journalists tomorrow for discussions that are to be broadcast live.
(RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service's Ainura Asankojoeva contributed to this report.)