BISHKEK (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s deposed President Askar Akayev resigned on Monday allowing the Central Asian state’s new rulers to consolidate their grip on power seized in last month’s coup and prepare for a new election.
The veteran leader formally stepped down in a ceremony at the Kyrgyz embassy in the Russian capital, where he had fled after the coup on March 24.
Disagreement among the new leadership over whether to let Akayev return to hand in his resignation to parliament added to tension in the former Soviet state amid warnings of fresh violence and the resignation of a senior leadership figure. “Askar Akayev has already signed the (resignation) statement,” Bermet Bukasheva, member of a Kyrgyz delegation dispatched to Moscow to negotiate with the ousted leader, said in comments shown on the Russian television.
“Before resigning, he made his final address to the Kyrgyz people asking them to pardon him if he did anything wrong to the nation or individuals and expressed his wish that Kyrgyzstan’s future course be as democratic as possible,” she added.
The opposition coup in Bishkek followed a wave of opposition protests fueled by flawed parliamentary polls and widespread poverty in mountainous state of 5 million bordering China.
Protesters led by Kurmanbek Bakiyev, now acting president, accused Akayev and his family of ruling illegally and of running a corrupt business empire.
His resignation, they said, opened the way for democratic elections and new hope for impoverished country.
“Those people from the former regime who wanted to continue their game will not be able to try any more,” said Giaz Tokombayev, a leading opposition figure.
Many Kyrgyz politicians argued that Akayev was still legally president and would have to resign before new elections could be held, but Bakiyev refused to allow him into the country — saying the ex-leader could not be protected from public anger.
That put him at odds with other key members of the new leadership, Felix Kulov and parliamentary speaker Omurbek Tekebayev, both of whom wanted the country’s leader of 14 years to formally quit to parliament.
Disagreement appeared to be growing among leaders after Kulov resigned as security chief last week.
He said he quit because the country was back to normal. But a close associate said it was because Bakiyev appointed one of his own allies as head of the national security service without consulting Kulov.
But observers said such differences showed democracy was developing in the absence of Akayev.
“We have got used to living in an authoritarian state and we need now to adapt to the fact that there will be competition between political parties. There is no one boss,” said Edil Baysalov, the head of a coalition of human rights groups.
The presidential election, in which both Kulov and Bakiyev are expected to stand, has been tentatively set for June 26. Under the constitution, new polls must be held within three months of the resignation of the previous leader.