BISHKEK (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Thursday to delay an election to await a constitutional reform promoted by acting president Sadyr Japarov, a move that boosts his chances of staying on as full-time leader.
The Central Asian nation, which borders China and is closely allied with Russia, was rocked by protests this month against the results of an Oct. 4 parliamentary election, which awarded most seats to two establishment parties.
Protesters seized government buildings and forced the cabinet and President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to resign and the vote to be annulled. They also released nationalist politician Japarov from prison, allowing him first to be elected prime minister then to take over as acting president.
Japarov has sought to change the national charter, which bars him from becoming full-time president, but it had been unclear how he would manage to call a constitutional referendum while also overseeing a re-run of the parliamentary election.
However, parliament agreed on Thursday to delay the new parliamentary election – scheduled for Dec. 20 – until after the proposed constitutional reform.
Thursday’s vote showed Japarov had enough supporters in the legislature to trigger a referendum that could delay or change the rules for the presidential poll due by mid-January.
The exact contents of the proposed reform package are yet to be made public. Parliament also voted on Thursday to make the next parliamentary election more open by lowering the threshold for parties to gain seats to 3% of the vote from 7%.
As one of his first moves after assuming the interim presidency, Japarov reassured Moscow this month that it would remain Bishkek’s No.1 partner and there would be no changes to the terms on which Russia maintains a military base in the former Soviet republic of 6.5 million people.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Cawthorne)