Kyrgyzstan tears down government gates after crisis

AFP , Friday 6 Nov 2020

Kyrgyzstan tore down the gates of its main government building in a move authorities said symbolised the removal of barriers between citizens and authorities following political turmoil

Workers remove a fence around the house of parliament, which was recently stormed by protesters following a parliamentary election in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan November 6, 2020. REUTERS

Kyrgyzstan tore down the gates of its main government building on Friday in a move the authorities said symbolised the removal of barriers between citizens and government following political turmoil.

Sooronbay Jeenbekov last month became the third president in Kyrgyzstan to resign amid unrest since the country gained independence 29 years ago as the Soviet Union colllapsed.

His departure came after allegations of vote rigging in an October parliamentary election sparked mass protests that persisted even after the vote results were cancelled.

The initiative to tear down the black-painted metal gates surrounding the building that houses parliament and the presidential administration came from new prime minister and acting president Sadyr Japarov, parliamentary speaker Talant Mamytov told journalists.

The demolition of the gates "is a symbol of the openness of the new government to the people," Mamytov said.

An AFP correspondent saw state workers use cutting and welding tools to remove sections of the gate before hauling them away using a crane, leaving one section untouched.

The new mayor of the capital Bishkek, Balbak Tulobayev, said the section, which includes a plaque bearing the name of the dead from a previous uprising, would stay and compared it to remnants of the Berlin wall.

"It will remain as a memory," Tulobayev said.


'Warlike' people

Protesters captured the government building known as the White House in the early hours of October 6, a day after the results of the election were announced.

They broke through the gates, mirroring the actions of protesters during political upheavals that unseated the country's first and second presidents in 2005 and 2010.

The latest crisis was triggered by elections that saw parties close to former president Jeenbekov accused of mass vote-buying.

Toktokan Omuraliyev, 53, told AFP he supported removing the gates.

"Without the people there is no government, and government must be in constant communication with the people," Omuraliyev said.

The gates were installed because "bribe-takers fear the people", he added.

Eighteen-year-old student Arslan Omurov agreed, joking that Kyrgyz people are "warlike".

"A fence is not going to help (the government)."

Parliament is holding sessions at the state residence outside Bishkek until the White House is restored following the takeover by protesters.

Jeenbekov resigned on October 15, paving the way for Japarov to take office less than two weeks after the populist politician was freed from jail by supporters and a day after he was confirmed as prime minister.

Both moves were demanded by Japarov's supporters, who converged on Bishkek from the provinces at the peak of the political crisis.

Key ally Russia has been slow to recognise Japarov as acting president of the impoverished and mountainous Central Asian country.

Japarov has promised to step down from both his positions in order to run in a presidential election scheduled for January 10.

On Friday, he received a boost as Omurbek Babanova, a former prime minister who challenged Jeenbekov in the 2017 presidential election, backed Japarov's candidacy and said he would not contest the ballot.

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