Kyrgyzstan president resigns amid political unrest after disputed election

Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Russia's Putin
(Image credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/ Sputnik/AFP/Getty Images)

Sooronbai Jeenbekov, president of Kyrgyzstan, announced his resignation Thursday, potentially defusing one of at least three crises in Russia's sphere of influence. Kyrgyzstan, which borders China and Russia, has been in turmoil since a disputed Oct. 4 parliamentary election. The national election commission declared a victory for pro-government parties, then nullified the election when anti-government protesters revolted, claiming vote-buying and other irregularities. Jeenbekov is the third Kyrgyzstan president ousted in a popular uprising since 2005.

Jeenbekov said he has agreed to step down to avoid bloodshed. Protesters already overran several government buildings over the past week, and if they follow through on threats to seize the president's house, "the military and security forces will be obliged to use their weapons to protect the state residence," he said. "Blood will be inevitably shed," and holding on to power is not "worth the integrity of our country and harmony in society."

After days of unrest in the capital, Bishkek, Jeenbekov passed a state of emergency. On Wednesday, he sought to calm the protests by agreeing to appoint Sadyr Zhaparov, a nationalist former lawmaker freed from jail last week by demonstrators, as prime minister. "The president couldn't hold out," Dastan Bekeshev, a lawmaker who supports neither Jeenbekov or Japarov, told Reuters by phone. "He's very weak. No spirit. It's not clear what happens next, nobody can tell what is going to happen."

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Kyrgyzstan is an ally of Moscow and houses a Russian military base. The Kremlin had said it will ensure stability in the country, even as it deals with a disputed election in Belarus and fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.