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Acting Kyrgyz President Japarov Says Changes To Constitution Could Clear Way For Him To Run

Acting Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov delivers a speech at the parliament in Bishkek on October 16.
Acting Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov delivers a speech at the parliament in Bishkek on October 16.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's acting President Sadyr Japarov says he will run for president in an upcoming election if lawmakers approve constitutional amendments to allow it.

"Currently, parliament is working on changes to be introduced to the law on presidential and parliamentary elections. If such amendments allow me to take part in the [presidential] election I will go for it. But, it is early to talk about it now, the decision on that issue is pending," Japarov, who also became the country's prime minister last week, told the Rossia-24 television channel in an interview that was aired on October 19.

The constitution forbids a person serving as an acting or interim president from taking part in a presidential election. Changing the constitution could require a national referendum.

Japarov, a former nationalist lawmaker and who was convicted of kidnapping a political rival, was elected by lawmakers on October 14 to the post of prime minister after days of uncertainty and political crisis amid a backlash over disputed elections that led to the resignation of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and other senior officials.

Thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets across the country demanding Jeenbekov's resignation and new elections to rerun the October 4 voting that they insisted was marred by massive vote fraud. It was the third popular revolt to topple a president in Kyrgyzstan since 2005.

On October 16, Kyrgyz lawmakers handed temporary presidential powers to Japarov until an early presidential election, which is most likely to be held in January 2021.

Once in power, one of Japarov's first moves was to appoint a former emergency situations minister, Kamchybek Tashiev, to lead the powerful State Committee of National Security (UKMK).

Tashiev pledged to launch an investigation of the customs agency and its former deputy chief, Raimbek Matraimov,

Matraimov is one of three brothers from what is rumored to be one of the wealthiest and most-powerful families in Kyrgyzstan.

In June, an investigation by RFE/RL, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the news siite Kloop found that Matraimov for years had enabled and profited massively from a smuggling empire run by a secretive Uyghur family and used some of the proceeds to buy influence.

The UKMK's press service told RFE/RL on October 19 that the agency’s investigations had identified 40 persons who are suspected in taking part in Matraimov-led corruption schemes.