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Kyrgyzstan Inaugurates New President In Peaceful Transfer Of Power


Kyrgyz President-elect Sooronbai Jeenbekov (left) sits with outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev.
Kyrgyz President-elect Sooronbai Jeenbekov (left) sits with outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev.

Kyrgyzstan's new president has been inaugurated in the capital, Bishkek, in a first peaceful transfer of power between elected presidents in the region.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov replaces President Almazbek Atambaev, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second term.

Delivering remarks in both Kyrgyz and Russian at his inauguration ceremony, Jeenbekov pledged to protect the "unity of the country."

Jeenbekov, who served as Atambaev's prime minister from April 2016 to August 2017, also vowed to tackle rampant corruption in the Central Asian state of 6 million.

"A ruthless fight against corruption has begun. Conditions have been created to purify society," he said.

According to official results, Jeenbekov won the October 15 election with 54 percent of the vote -- enought to avoid a runoff -- after a campaign in which critics said the outgoing president used the courts, law enforcement, and other levers of power to put his former prime minister in power.

Jeenbekov's main rival, Omurbek Babanov, gained just short of 34 percent of the vote and has alleged that the voting was marred by violations.

International observers praised the vote as competitive and transparent, but said that "numerous and significant problems were noted" during the count and that "misuse of public resources, pressure on voters, and vote buying remain a concern."

Atambaev defended the results of the election in comments following the November 24 inauguration ceremony, calling the ballot "transparent and competitive." He said he was confident Jeenbekov would "continue Kyrgyzstan's chosen path toward development and prosperity."

Jeenbekov's inauguration marks the first peaceful handover of power from one elected president to another in any Central Asian country since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Presidents were driven from power by street protests in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and 2010, and for more than two decades only the death of a president in office has ushered in a new leader in any of the other four countries in the region.

With reporting by AFP

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