Kyrgyzstan: populist Sadyr Japarov invested president

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Bishkek | Populist Sadyr Japarov was sworn in as President of Kyrgyzstan on Thursday after winning elections in the Central Asian country, rocked in October by a political crisis that propelled him from prison to head of state.

Sadyr Japarov, 52, was serving a prison sentence for hostage-taking when he was freed by his supporters amid unrest that erupted when the opposition challenged the results of parliamentary elections, marked by suspicion of fraud.

After the resignation of the then president, this former deputy had received interim orders from the state before winning the presidential election on January 10 with nearly 80% of the vote.

Sadyr Japarov vowed Thursday to “preserve the integrity of the people and the security of the country” by placing his hand on the Kyrgyz Constitution, which is due to be amended in the coming months to strengthen the powers of the president.

By winning the presidential election, Mr. Japarov had promised “the dictatorship of law and justice” in this poor country of Central Asia, while sweeping the fears of his opponents who say that this populist is now preparing a tough crackdown.

Critics fear that Sadyr Japarov’s goal is to concentrate power in the style of authoritarian rulers in the region, as in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

Two of Mr. Japarov’s presidential opponents were arrested by police this week.

The first, Abdil Seguizbaïev, was head of the security services at the time of Mr. Japarov’s arrest in 2017 for hostage-taking. He is accused of abuse of power.

The second, Kursan Assanov, had proclaimed himself Minister of the Interior during the same political crisis that released Sadyr Japarov from prison and propelled him into the helm of the state. He was arrested for his role in the capture of the ministry building by protesters.

A former prime minister, Moukhammedkali Abylgaziïev, was also arrested on Tuesday and charged with “illicit enrichment”.

Sadyr Japarov’s first trip abroad could be to Russia, where hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz immigrants work. The president called mass emigration to Kyrgyzstan a “tragedy” during his inauguration.

“Like all the patriots of the country, I dream of an economically developed, dynamic, strong and free Kyrgyzstan. A country where human rights are respected, where there is the dictatorship of the law and where young people think about the future with optimism, ”he said.

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