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Kyrgyz Opposition Figure Gets Top Government Job

President Kurmanbek Bakiev has come under increasing public criticism.

President Kurmanbek Bakiev has come under increasing public criticism.

BISHKEK (Reuters) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has named an opposition politician as first deputy prime minister, as part of a reshuffle analysts have linked to the 2010 presidential election.

Omurbek Babanov, 38, ran for the Central Asian state's parliament in 2007 as a member of the moderate opposition Social Democratic Party. He has since quit politics to concentrate on business, but retained party membership.

Last week, Bakiev dismissed several government officials but has not explained his motives. Analysts say he could be trying to boost his team before the presidential election.

"New approaches and measures are needed to tackle issues related to our country's development," Bakiev's press service quoted him as saying. "We are betting on young people with new ways of thinking who can swiftly take adequate measures."

Also on January 26, Bakiev named Kadyrbek Sarbaev, former ambassador to China, as foreign minister.

Kyrgyzstan, home to a U.S. and a Russian military base, has been volatile since 2005 when Bakiev came to power after mass street protests ousted his long-serving predecessor.

Public criticism of Bakiev has been on the rise as the impoverished ex-Soviet state struggles with a deepening economic crisis and energy shortages.