BISHKEK -- Embattled Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has signed a decree reintroducing a state of emergency in Bishkek, the capital, after thousands poured into the streets last week, throwing the country into chaos over contested parliamentary elections.
Jeenbekov’s press service said on October 12 that the state of emergency was needed due to "the ongoing tense situation that might cause violence and threats to people’s health and lives after mass disorder" caused by demonstrations over the official results of the elections on October 4. The protests forced Jeenbekov's government and parliament’s chairman to resign.
The state of emergency started at 8:00 p.m. local time on October 12 and will last until 7:00 a.m. on October 19 according to the decree. Deputy Interior Minister Almazbek Orozaliev was named Bishkek's commandant responsible for law and order in the city during the state of emergency.
Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian country with elements of democracy, but it has been destabilized by poverty, corruption, clan rivalries, and deep divisions between its northern and southern regions.
Following the reintroduction of the state of emergency in Kyrgyzstan, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for the safeguarding of the Kyrgyz citizen's rights.
"Kyrgyz authorities have a duty to protect citizens in times of crisis, but the government must ensure that any measures imposed are strictly proportionate to their aim, and that emergency powers are not applied in a discriminatory manner," HRW said in a statement on October 12.
"It is essential that Kyrgyz authorities safeguard democratic structures and fundamental human rights, including the right to peaceful protest, media freedoms, and the rights of journalists, human rights defenders, and members of political opposition to work free of harassment or threat," HRW said.
Political unrest has gripped Kyrgyzstan since parliamentary elections on October 4 were tainted by allegations of vote-buying and fraud that benefited status quo parties, sparking angry street protests that resulted in the Central Elections Commission canceling the results and rival political forces vying for control.
The country’s divided parliament controversially appointed Sadyr Japarov as prime minister on October 10, just days after the convicted kidnapper was sprung from prison during the unrest.
Members of parliament and other political activists have questioned the legitimacy of the rump parliament session that selected Japarov, the latest twist in a sometimes violent power struggle in the aftermath of the elections.
Japarov is a former nationalist member of parliament who says his 2017 conviction on charges of kidnapping a regional governor was politically motivated.
He previously was a senior member of the Kyrgyz government and an adviser to former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was overthrown in 2010.
Until supporters broke him out of prison on October 6, he was serving an 11 1/2-year sentence. A court struck down the verdict this week during the unrest.
Demonstrators who seized government buildings after the election also released former President Almazbek Atambaev from a prison where he was serving an 11-year sentence after being convicted of corruption in June.
But on October 10, security forces again arrested Atambaev, Jeenbekov's main rival, on charges of organizing riots.
Hours after Atambaev’s detention, Jeenbekov's allies in parliament gathered for an extraordinary session at his official residence outside of Bishkek and appointed Japarov as prime minister, which other lawmakers and opposition political parties called illegal, saying that only 50 lawmakers were present at the session, while at least 61 of 120 lawmakers must take part in the process to make legitimate decisions.
Last week, Jeenbekov said he is ready to resign but only after all necessary steps to establish law and order in the country are restored.
If Jeenbekov steps down, it would be the third time in 15 years that public protests have brought down a Kyrgyz president.
That brings up the possibility that Japarov could become acting president as well. Under the law, if the president steps down his responsibilities go to the speaker of parliament, but in the absence of a speaker of parliament, the next in line is the prime minister.
Myktybek Abdyldayev of the Bir Bol (Unity) party, who was elected parliament speaker on October 6, resigned on October 10 and only a deputy speaker, Mirlan Bakirov, was approved.
The turmoil has also highlighted deep-seated corruption within the country.
Neighboring Uzbekistan said it had handed over three people who illegally crossed the border on October 6, including a district mayor, Tilek Matraimov, from a politically influential family.
Raiymbek Matraimov, along with his powerful clan, was the target of large protests in November and December last year, with demonstrators demanding a probe into allegations of corruption and massive outflows of cash from the country.
The powerful tycoon, whom many in Kyrgyzstan consider as Jeenbekov's associate, has been at the center of a high-profile corruption scandal exposed by a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP,) and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop.