Kyrgyzstan has closed its borders to try to shore up security, officials said Thursday, amid deepening political chaos in the wake of a violent uprising that toppled the government this week.
Monday night’s protests – sparked by anger at the disputed 4th of October parliamentary elections, which were marred by allegations of widespread vote-buying – saw furious protesters storm the seat of government, forcing the country’s cabinet to resign. One person was killed and at least 1,000 sought medical attention for injuries from the uprising.
The unrest has left a yawning power vacuum in the former Soviet republic, which rival opposition groups have been jostling to fill. Three factions have put forward or attempted to install candidates as acting prime minister, while outgoing MPs, attempting to negotiate a way out of the crisis, have split into two camps meeting separately, both unable to muster a quorum.
“Rival opposition factions are attempting to install their candidates in key posts and to convene parliamentary sessions to chart a path out of the impasse, but no headway has been made and these figures lack legitimacy,” Kate Mallinson, an associate fellow at the Chatham House international affairs think-tank, told VICE News.
“The search is on for a charismatic interim leader to be appointed by parliament, but there are no obvious, compromise candidates.”
An interim prime minister would oversee a repeat parliamentary vote to be held in coming months, after Kyrgyzstan’s election commission annulled the results of Sunday’s contested elections following the protests.
Complicating the situation, various factions have used the chaos to free controversial politicians from jail, who are now seeking to again play a role in the country’s governance. Among them are former president Almazbek Atambayev, who was jailed for corruption, and Sadyr Japarov, a former MP who was serving a lengthy sentence for hostage-taking, and whose supporters have attempted to install as acting prime minister.
Mallinson said that the only way out of the stalemate – for parliament to hold an extraordinary session and appoint a new prime minister – was being complicated due to protracted negotiations between rival groups. Some insist President Sooronbay Jeenbekov – who protesters have demanded to resign – needs to quit to break the impasse, but he has so far refused to budge.
Jeenbekov has not appeared in public since the protests erupted, but his office has said he remains in the capital, where he has been calling for talks between political factions. A meeting of 40 MPs Wednesday night failed to pass a motion to impeach Jeenbekov after the chairman refused to include it on the agenda.
Amid reports from Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency Thursday that Kyrgyz security officials had given border guards a list of “high-ranking” officials who were forbidden from leaving the country, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the situation as “chaos”.
“The situation looks like a mess and chaos,” said Peskov, whose government is a powerful ally of Kyrgyzstan and has a military base in the country. He added that Moscow had obligations under an existing security treaty to stop things from deteriorating further.