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As Key Opposition Figure Shakes Up Kyrgyzstan, A Head of State Finally Steps Down

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Kyrgyzstan’s president announced on Saturday that he was stepping down after two terms, marking the first time a head of state has failed to serve a full five-year term in Central Asia’s largest country.

“The executive power will be handed over to the lower house of the parliament, where the president’s position will be known only as speaker,” Sooronbai Jeenbekov said in a televised speech at the end of an extraordinary meeting of parliament. “The only thing necessary now is that we preserve the democracy and the constitution as they are.”

The leaders of the opposition, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, had been expected to join Jeenbekov at the meeting. In recent days, they and other politicians had repeated they would not resign. But supporters of Jeenbekov had been preparing for a broader effort to keep him in power, an effort that on Friday led to clashes between protesters and police. At least eight people were killed, dozens were injured and more than a thousand people were arrested, the Associated Press reported.

Jeenbekov, a former police commander, was elected president in 2005 and had won a second term on March 24 this year. His term expired in December, but by the time parliament met on Saturday, he was reported to have dropped a constitutional provision, inserted in 2011, that had blocked the transfer of the presidency to the House of People and potentially allowed him to serve an extra year.

Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest nations in Central Asia, has been faced with prolonged instability since April 2010, when a series of ethnic clashes and terrorist attacks left dozens dead and dozens of villages burned.

Bits and pieces of the foreign media’s coverage of the news were published Saturday. The state-owned television,

The state-owned television, Alburov TV — which mainly only aired news that supported the president — conducted interviews with former deputy prime minister Omurbek Tekebayev, who is now a member of the party he used to head, Ata Meken. “The parliament is acting in a mature and professional manner,” he said.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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