Kyrgyzstan unrest: Ex-president rearrested as energy battle deepens

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Reuters

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Kyrgyzstan’s President declared a state of emergency on Friday after days of clashes between rival factions

Kyrgyzstan’s former president was arrested again when the country’s incumbent leader sought to strengthen his power after days of unrest over a controversial election.

Security forces arrested ex-leader Almazbek Atambayev in a raid on Saturday.

He had been freed days before by supporters during protests against the controversial parliamentary election last Sunday.

The elections sparked a political crisis in the Central Asian country.

On Saturday, the Kyrgyz parliament named nationalist politician Sadyr Zhaparov as the new prime minister after his predecessor resigned and opened a power vacuum.

Mr. Zhaparov is also among the prominent politicians who were liberated during the protests this week. He served a prison sentence in 2013 on charges of holding a government official hostage.

The riots began after protesters took to the streets of the capital Bishkek on Tuesday and stormed government buildings to demand a new vote and the resignation of pro-Russian President Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

They said the election results had been manipulated – claims by international observers were “credible” and cause “serious concern”.

President Jeenbekov has announced that he will resign when a new government is formed and the rule of law is restored.

In the meantime, the president has declared a state of emergency after demonstrations led to violence and clashes with police on Friday.

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Media signatureProtesters stormed a government complex in Bishkek earlier this week

Fist fights broke out among groups who supported rival politicians vying to become the country’s new prime minister.

Since the protests began, more than 1,200 people have been injured and one person has been killed in street clashes.

A curfew and strict military restrictions have now been imposed, including controls on who can travel to and from the capital.

The landlocked land bordering China was part of the Soviet Union until independence in 1991. It has a reputation for holding semi-free and fair elections compared to some of its neighbors, but the 2005 and 2010 uprisings have ousted former presidents from power.

How and why was Atambayev arrested again?

A spokeswoman for Mr. Atambayev told AFP that “special forces have stormed his premises”.

The State Security Service said they had arrested Mr. Atambayev for inciting civil unrest. The ex-president is one of Mr. Jeenbekov’s fiercest political enemies.

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Atambayev’s supporters on Tuesday secured his release from prison, where he was sentenced to a long prison term on charges of corruption.

What caused the unrest and what do the demonstrators want?

A controversial general election sparked a violent uprising this week when protesters refused to accept the result. The Central Election Commission later overturned the results.

The clashes created a power vacuum and spread mob rule across the country. People stormed government offices and installed their own guides.

Former Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov resigned on Wednesday.

At an extraordinary session of Parliament on Saturday, Mr Boronov was replaced by Mr Zhaparov, who is supported by nationalists.

Mr. Zhaparov, who is seen by opposition factions as an ally of the president, told MPs that he would leave the cabinet list unchanged.

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Sadyr Zhaparov was appointed the new Prime Minister by the Kyrgyz Parliament on Saturday

It is not clear whether this appointment will satisfy protesters who cannot agree on who will lead the new government. Each group wants their own leader to take power.

Previously, President Jeenbekov had fired senior security officials who either supported the opposition or did not intervene when it came to power.

What do we know about the choice?

The parliamentary vote took place last Sunday. Only four out of 16 political parties won enough votes to get seats in parliament – three of the four had close ties with Mr Jeenbekov.

None of the mainstream opposition parties secured a seat, and on Monday all 12 opposition groups jointly declared that they would not recognize the results.

They accused parties close to the president of buying votes and intimidating voters. Some observers said they saw in the first hours of the vote that some citizens with marked masks were given ballot papers filled out.

There were also allegations that voters were bribed and taken to places where they could influence the outcome.

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