The president of Kyrgyzstan said Thursday he was resigning following protests over a recent parliamentary election. It is the third time in 15 years that a leader of the Central Asian country has been removed by a popular uprising.
Protesters in the capital, Bishkek, celebrated the decision by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov. However, it is not clear if his resignation will stop the unrest that has brought chaos to the country since last week.
The protestors quickly demanded that the parliament be dismissed and its speaker resign from office.
One a day earlier, Jeenbekov had refused calls to resign. But the protests continued, and even the new prime minister called on him to resign.
In a statement released by the president's office, Jeenbekov said he feared violence if he stayed in power. He noted that protesters were facing off against the police and the military.
"I don't want to go down in history as a president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens," he said.
Jeenbekov said the situation in Bishkek "remains tense"and that he did not want to worsen those tensions. He urged opposition politicians to get their supporters off the streets and "bring peaceful life back to the people."
Parliament must officially approve his resignation. The speaker of the parliament, Kanat Isayev, told reporters the parliament's members would meet Friday to consider it.
Krygyzstan is home to 6.5 million people. The country was pushed into chaos following parliamentary elections on October 4. Election officials claim that pro-government parties won the vote. But the opposition said that vote-buying and other problems influenced the results.
Protesters took to the streets, seizing government buildings and attacking some offices. The Central Election Commission cancelled the election results. The opposition then announced plans to remove Jeenbekov and form a new government.
As the protests grew, Jeenbekov announced a state of emergency in Bishkek. Government officials deployed troops to the city and ordered a curfew. The move eased tensions in the city as citizens stopped fearing the violence and destruction that they had experienced with earlier uprisings. Stores and banks reopened.
To try to stop the protests, Jeenbekov on Wednesday approved the appointment of Sadyr Zhaparov as prime minister. The former lawmaker was freed from jail by demonstrators last week. Jeenbekov also approved the newly-appointed members of Zhaparov's new Cabinet.
Zhaparov has repeatedly demanded Jeenbekov's resignation and promised his supporters to push for it. The Kyrgyz leader had said he would stay in the job until the political situation had calmed.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countries that gained independence from the former Soviet Union. It is a member of Russian-controlled economic and security agreements. It receives economic support from Russia.
A Russian government spokesman said Thursday that his country would "pause" its support for Kyrgyzstan because "there is no government as such, as far as we see."
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.