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Kyrgyz Parliament Votes To Suspend Elections Until After Constitutional Reform

Prime Minister and acting President Sadyr Japarov
Prime Minister and acting President Sadyr Japarov

Kyrgyzstan's parliament has rushed through a bill to delay a rerun of parliamentary elections, set just a day earlier for December, until after constitutional reforms.

The October 22 move comes as Sadyr Japarov -- who has recently maneuvered to take up the post of prime minister and acting president after being sprung from prison -- has advocated for constitutional changes to consolidate power following more than two weeks of political chaos.

The Central Asian country has been in turmoil since an October 4 election, the results of which were quickly annulled amid unrest triggered by allegations of vote-buying and other irregularities that gave established political parties a dominant position.

President Sooronbai Jeenbekov stepped down last week under pressure from parliamentary factions and Japarov's supporters, who flooded the streets and used strong-arm tactics against opponents.

Japarov, a former nationalist lawmaker and convicted kidnapper who was freed from prison when a mob stormed a Bishkek prison during the protests, was elected prime minister by parliament and then had the presidential powers transferred to him when Jeenbekov left office.

He has advocated shrinking the legislature, altering the electoral system, abolishing the post of prime minister, and introducing a stronger presidential system.

However, Japarov cannot take part in the election as the current constitution does not allow acting presidents to seek office. Earlier this week, Japarov said he would be eligible to run for president if the law was changed.

On October 21, the Central Election Commission had set December 20 as the date of the new elections after the results of the October 4 vote were annulled.

But parliament on October 22 overturned that decision by suspending part of the constitution that requires new elections. The bill was passed without discussion in three readings at once.

The constitutional reform must be completed by January 21 and new parliamentary elections held after the reform is complete but before June 1, 2021, according to a draft of the law cited by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

It is now unclear how legitimate the cancellation of the Central Election Commission's decision will be.

Meanwhile, Japarov has denied suggestions that organized-crime groups backed his rapid rise to power.

The turbulence in Kyrgyzstan has concerned Russia, which maintains a military base in the country.

"What is going on there is a misfortune, a misfortune for the Kyrgyz people, both the election and the coup," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an online address for a discussion forum in Moscow, according to TASS.

Putin said Russia had done "a lot" to keep Kyrgyzstan standing, referring to hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the country and Kyrgyz migrant workers in Russia. But added that while it cannot view what's going on there without alarm, Russia doesn't "meddle."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and TASS.