BISHKEK -- Sadyr Japarov, in jail on hostage-taking charge just three months ago, has been sworn in as Kyrgyzstan's president after his landslide election victory earlier this month.
In a decidedly low-key inauguration ceremony due to coronavirus concerns, the 52-year-old Japarov was sworn in on January 28 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan has been in crisis since parliamentary elections in October led to protests that triggered the toppling of the government and the resignation of then-President Sooronbai Jeenbekov -- the third time since 2005 that a Kyrgyz president and his government had been ousted by protests.
Japarov was among several prominent politicians freed from prison by protesters during the unrest. He had been serving a 10-year prison sentence for hostage taking during a protest against a mining operation in northeast Kyrgyzstan in October 2013. He has steadfastly denied the charge.
After taking the oath of office, Japarov, who won more than 79 percent of the vote in the January 10 election, called on all political groups including his opponents, ethnic groups, and nongovernmental and religious organizations to unite and work together for the Central Asian nation's better future.
Japarov emphasized that he will stick to a "multipronged" foreign policy, stressing that Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan will be major partners under his leadership.
"I, like all patriots of the country, dream that Kyrgyzstan will become economically developed, dynamic, strong, and free," Japarov said.
"A country where human rights are observed, where there is a dictatorship of law, and youth look to the future with optimism," he added, echoing a catchprase used by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was among the first leaders to congratulate Japarov on his election victory.
International observers said the election "generally respected" fundamental freedoms even though the vote was not "fully fair."
A joint ODIHR/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly preliminary report concluded that candidates "could mostly campaign freely" but the campaign was "dominated by one candidate who benefited from disproportionate financial means and misuse of administrative resources, resulting in an uneven playing field."