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Acting Kyrgyz President Signs Law That Will Delay Vote, Paves Way For Changes Allowing Him To Run

Acting President Sadyr Japarov

BISHKEK-- Kyrgyzstan’s acting President Sadyr Japarov has signed changes to the elections law that will delay parliamentary and presidential votes, a move the convicted kidnapper's critics call a power grab.

Japarov moved quickly, signing the changes into law late on October 22, just hours after parliament approved them to pave the way for further legal changes that would allow him to run for the presidency.

The Central Asian nation plunged into chaos earlier this month after accusations of vote-buying and other improprieties during parliamentary elections on October 4 prompted massive street protests.

Japarov, who had been convicted of kidnapping a rival and sentenced to 11 1/2 years in 2017, was released from prison in Bishkek by protesters on October 6 in the wake of the rallies, which resulted in the ouster of the government, and led the parliamentary speaker and President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to step down.

Parliament named Japarov the new prime minister and handed over presidential powers after Jeenbekov left office on October 16.

Under the current law, Japarov cannot run for the presidency as acting presidents are forbidden from participating in a presidential poll.

The October 23 changes, which mean a rerun of the disputed parliamentary vote won't take place as scheduled on December 20, give lawmakers until January 10, 2021 to adopt constitutional reforms that will pave the way for Japarov to run.

The constitutional reforms must be completed by January 21 and new parliamentary elections held after the reform is complete but before June 1, 2021, according to the new law.

Several lawmakers, politicians, and civil rights groups called Japarov's move an attempt to "usurp" power, but Japarov rejected the criticism, saying all of the reforms "will be in the people's interests" and that presidential and parliamentary elections will held before March.

Japarov has advocated for downsizing the legislature, altering the electoral system, abolishing the post of prime minister, and introducing a stronger presidential system.