Kyrgyzstan’s prime minister and acting president stepped down from both leadership roles on Saturday in order to compete in January’s presidential election.
Sadyr Japarov, a populist who shot to power last month during political unrest in the Central Asian country, has been accused of trying to consolidate power and is expected to win the election.
In a statement on the presidential website, he said he was leaving both positions and would be competing in the vote as an “everyday citizen”.
The move was expected as Kyrgyzstan’s constitution prevents sitting presidents and prime ministers from competing in leadership votes.
Japarov was propelled to power in October after being freed from jail during political chaos that saw Sooronbay Jeenbekov resign as president.
The unrest was sparked by a parliamentary election that the opposition said was rigged and whose results were eventually annulled.
Parliament speaker Talant Mamytov — an ally of Japarov — will take on presidential powers on an interim basis.
First deputy prime minister Artem Novikov will take on the prime minister’s role.
Jeenbekov was the third Kyrgyz leader to step down amid political unrest since the country gained independence in 1991.
Wracked by blowback from the coronavirus pandemic, the landlocked ex-Soviet republic is facing its worst economic crisis in more than two decades.
More than 60 people have submitted documents to run in January’s presidential election — a far cry from leadership contests in the country’s more autocratic neighbours.
Japarov’s most realistic opponent so far is nationalist politician Adakhan Madumarov, who has a large following in the south of the country.
Arstanbek Abdyldayev, a fringe politician who once referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “complex bio-robot” is competing for the third time in a row but is not expected to mount a serious challenge.
Japarov spoke to key ally Putin by telephone earlier this week.
In Putin’s first comments on the crisis in Kyrgystan last month he said that he thought the instability and change of power was “unfortunate” for the Kyrgyz people.