Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Jeenbekov resigned from office on Thursday following widespread protests and one day after formerly-jailed nationalist Sadyr Japarov assumed the role of prime minister.
Jeenbekov said he was leaving office following several days of intense protests by critics and political opponents who disputed the nation's Oct. 4 parliamentary election, in which a number of the president's political allies claimed victory.
"For me, peace in Kyrgyzstan, the integrity of the country, the unity of our people and tranquility in society are above all," he said. "There is nothing dearer to me than the life of each of my compatriots.
"I'm not holding on to power. I do not want to remain in the history of Kyrgyzstan as the president who shed blood and shot at his own citizens. Therefore, I've decided to resign."
Under Kyrgyz law, parliament speaker Kanatbek Isayev is supposed to act as president. If he resigned, Japarov would assume power.
Jeenbekov became the third Kyrgyzstan president since 2005 to leave office under public pressure. He'd won this month's election to keep his seat, but opposition leaders disputed the contest and large protests followed.
"The military and security forces will be obliged to use their weapons to protect the state residence," Jeenbekov added. "Blood will be inevitably shed. I urge both sides not to fall for provocations."
Wednesday, Jeenbekov accepted Japarov as the new prime minister after he was approved by Kyrgyzstan Parliament.
Japarov was jailed in 2017 for kidnapping a public official. He first took a seat in parliament in 2005 under former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was overthrown in 2010.
Japarov was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2013 for holding a provincial governor hostage during the protest of a local Kumtor goldmine project, but fled to Kazakhstan and was captured four years later.
"Nobody can tell really how it's possible that Japarov jumped from a place of detention immediately to the highest echelons of power," Kyrgyz academic Asel Doolotkeldieva lamented.
"Was it an orchestrated plan by a group of people who wanted to take advantage of the revolt and advance their own interests or was it a spontaneous act by Japarov's supporters? We don't know."