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Kyrgyzstan ends state of emergency as nationalist consolidates power

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Friday to end a state of emergency imposed by its ousted president, as interim Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov, a Kyrgyz nationalist, took temporary control of the presidency of one of Russia’s close allies.

Former President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, who resigned on Thursday, ordered troops to be deployed in Bishkek last week after days of unrest triggered by an Oct. 4 parliamentary election in which his allies were accused of vote-buying.

Japarov, freed from prison by his supporters and quickly elected prime minister by parliament, also took over the interim presidency after parliament speaker Kanatbek Isayev - constitutionally first in line - turned it down on Friday.

The prime minister is second in line under the constitution, but Japarov’s assumption of both roles prompted concern.

“This is an unprecedented case in Kyrgyzstan’s history,” parliament deputy Omurbek Tekebayev said. “Such tremendous powers in the hands of one man.”

Jasparov has said Russia would remain a key strategic partner of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia with significant ethnic Russian and Uzbek minorities, and he had no plans to review the terms of Russia’s Kyrgyz air base.

His foreign minister Ruslan Kazakbayev also told the Chinese ambassador to Bishkek on Friday that the cabinet would stick to all existing agreements with Beijing, its giant neighbour, major trade partner and investor.

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ELECTION RE-RUN

Japarov told parliament he would address the nation of 6.5 million within hours. However, some four hours later it remained unclear when and where he planned to do that and his office could not be reached for comment.

In a brief speech in parliament, he proposed lowering the threshold for political parties to win seats from the current 7% in a re-run of the parliamentary election, which must take place later this year.

As interim president, Japarov cannot run in the presidential election, which he must oversee no later than mid-January.

Tekebayev urged Japarov to make sure people close to him do not run for president either, singling out Kamchybek Tashiyev, the leader of the nationalist Ata Zhurt party, who spearheaded the efforts to free Japarov from prison and install him as PM.

Later on Friday, Japarov named Tashiyev head of the State National Security Committee and reshuffled a few other senior officials at the main state security body.

Japarov, a former presidential adviser and member of parliament, had been in prison since 2017 on charges of kidnapping over a 2013 event in which protesters briefly held a provincial governor hostage.

Kyrgyzstan, which borders China and hosts a large Canadian-owned gold mining operation, has seen three presidents, including Jeenbekov, toppled by popular uprisings over the last 15 years.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Robert Birsel, Philippa Fletcher and Alex Richardson

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