UPDATE 1-Kyrgyzstan's ruling bloc collapses over corruption charges

Tue Mar 18, 2014 3:00pm EDT

By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, March 18 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's ruling coalition fell apart on Tuesday, depriving Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev of his parliamentary majority, in a row over alleged corruption in the Central Asian nation.

The prime minister enjoys significant executive powers in Kyrgyzstan, which remains volatile after two popular uprisings that have deposed two presidents since 2005.

"The majority coalition is now disbanded," Felix Kulov, the majority bloc's leader, told Reuters, saying he had informed the president and parliament speaker in writing.

"The president is now to announce that the government is an acting one," he said, "and he has three days to task a parliamentary faction to form a majority coalition and propose a nominee for prime minister."

The Ata Meken party left the ruling coalition earlier on Tuesday, accusing the prime minister of abuse of office and misappropriation of state and foreign funds and aid when he was in charge of helping the south recover from bloody ethnic clashes in June 2010.

Satybaldiyev, who has led the cabinet since September 2012, and his spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Under the constitution, President Almazbek Atambayev can disband parliament and call an early election if the assembly fails to elect a new premier in three consecutive votes.

"Satybaldiyev has exhausted his moral and political outfit and can no longer occupy this high political post," Ata Meken said in a statement.

Ata Meken is the smallest of parliament's five factions, but its support was crucial to Saybaldiyev's majority bloc.

Satybaldiyev, 58, a soft-spoken technocrat who says he is non-partisan, is a key figure in talks with Canada's Centerra Gold, Kyrgyzstan's main foreign investor, to form a new gold venture to develop the Kumtor gold mine near the border with China.

He has rejected opposition calls to nationalise the mine, which alone accounted for 7.7 percent of Kyrgyzstan's economic output, 24 percent of industrial production and 36.5 percent of all exports last year.

Last month parliament gave the government up to four months to complete a draft deal with Centerra Gold on forming a new, 50-50 joint venture.

Kyrgyzstan stands out for its efforts to build a genuine parliamentary system in a region where autocrats in other post-Soviet states treat national assemblies as rubber stamps.

The impoverished, mainly Muslim country of 5.5 million, lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan and hosts a Russian military air base. In July, the U.S. Air Force is set to leave a base set up in Kyrgyzstan in 2001.

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