Kyrgyzstan has ushered in a new political era with the swearing in of a new four-party government with a Moscow-educated prime minister at its head.
The coalition government that was formed earlier this month -- and brings together Respublika, Social Democratic Party, Ar-Namys, and Ata-Meken -- took its oath at the parliament building in the capital, Bishkek.
Omurbek Babanov, the wealthy 41-year-old leader of the Respublika party, was appointed prime minister on December 24. He has vowed to fight widespread corruption and focus on boosting prosperity.
Activists and experts expressed mixed feelings about the new coalition government. While some praised the new cabinet as a coalition of experienced professionals, others criticized it for relying on old faces that have served under previous cabinets.
Saparbek Tynaev, who at 63 years old will take over as agriculture minister, served as a deputy minister from 1996 through 2001 under post-independence Kyrgyzstan's first president, Askar Akaev.
Newly appointed Finance Minister Akylbek Zhaparov held the same portfolio under President Kurmanbek Bakiev in 2006.
Likewise, new Deputy Prime Minister Aali Karashev served in the same post during the Bakiev era.
Lawmaker Shirin Aitmatova, who criticized the new government for failing to include many new faces, announced on December 28 she would leave the parliamentary coalition in protest.
'No Radical Changes'
Some experts, however, pointed out that experience under different governments might well serve ministers.
Azis Isa, research director of the Bishkek-based Central Asian Free Market Institute, says the new cabinet is a "lot more powerful" professionally than the previous government. "But I don't expect radical changes," Isa says.
Political activist Adil Turdukulov says neither age nor gender much matters and instead the government should focus on reforms.
"The main task of the government is not to bring in youth or women. The government should be a progressive," Turdukulov says. "In order to fulfill the promises that were made by President Atambaev during his election campaign, they need a team."
"My personal view is that the current members of the government don't have the ability, desire, and power to reach those goals," Turdukulov says.
An ethnic Tajik, Ravshan Sabirov, will serve as social welfare minister.
But Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun says the new cabinet failed to truly represent the country's diverse ethnic make-up.
Kyrgyzstan has a history of ethnic tensions, including the 2010 bloody unrest in its southern provinces that killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more, most of them ethnic Uzbeks.
"Kyrgyzstan has more than 80 ethnic groups, and Russian and Uzbeks are the biggest among them. To have one representative from each of them [Uzbek and Russian] would be preferable," Akun says.
Prime Minister Babanov made headlines in regional media this week by instructing heads of government agencies to cancel any planned vacations abroad to celebrate the New Year and to instead focus on their work.
Kyrgyzstan last year became the first country in Central Asia, where authoritarian presidencies are the post-Soviet norm, to introduce a parliamentary system of government.
Resource-rich Central Asia is notorious for its long-serving leaders, many of whom haven't left the presidency for two decades.
Written by Farangis Najibullah, with contributions by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondents Gulaiym Ashakeeva and Ulan Eshmatov