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Seizing On Fresh Powers, Kyrgyz President Appoints New Head Of Cabinet


Akylbek Japarov has been appointed to the new prime minister-like post. (file photo)

Kyrgyzstan's president has named a new cabinet chairman in an effort to jump-start the country in the midst of an economic malaise brought on partly by the pandemic.

The announcement of the move on October 12 marks a further consolidation by President Sadyr Japarov, who has changed the constitution to strengthen the presidency since vaulting to power after a popular postelection uprising a year ago.

Japarov named Akylbek Japarov (no relation) to a new prime minister-like post that's now called the chairman of the cabinet of ministers.

The 57-year-old Akylbek Japarov had served as deputy prime minister and finance and economy minister since June.

The appointment to a recently merged post of head of the presidential administration and head of the cabinet of ministers requires no legislative approval under reforms the president pushed through earlier this year.

The law uniting those functions passed its final reading last week and was signed by Japarov on October 11.

It is part of a series of moves that have been likened by critics to the vertical power structure that Russian President Vladimir Putin implemented to cement his grip on Russia.

But the proposed new cabinet of ministers must still go before Kyrgyz lawmakers for a vote.

The president said via social media that he and his new appointment had agreed on efforts to pull their post-Soviet Central Asian economy out of crisis, which has been blamed in part on the coronavirus pandemic.

President Japarov vowed that "if he can't deliver, I will take action," and said that "every step he takes is completely under my personal control."

Japarov took power after being freed in October 2020 by a mob of demonstrators from prison, where he was serving a sentence for abducting a regional governor in the midst of a long-running dispute over the Kumtor Gold Mine.

He quickly declared himself in charge and wrangled Kyrgyzstan's mostly spent political rivals into stepping down quietly before scheduling a presidential election and constitutional referendum for January.

The vote was criticized by Western observers for Japarov's domination of resources and his decision to hold it alongside the referendum on changing the constitution to increase presidential powers.

The new head of the cabinet, Akylbek Japarov, is a veteran politician who headed a state commission set up under President Japarov to investigate state and private actions at Kumtor.

Kumtor is at the center of a multibillion-dollar battle for control between the Kyrgyz state and Centerra Gold, which has operated the mine alongside a Kyrgyz state entity.

Kyrgyz authorities under President Japarov's watch have accused former senior Kyrgyz officials along with Canada's Centerra Gold and their leadership of wrongdoing in an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption in developing the mine.

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