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Kyrgyzstan: President steps down amid unrest over disputed election results

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Protesters react waving Kyrgyz national flags as they wait in front of the government building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Protesters react waving Kyrgyz national flags as they wait in front of the government building in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.   -   Copyright  Vladimir Voronin/Associated Press
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Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov announced his resignation on Thursday in a bid to end the turmoil that has engulfed the Central Asian nation after a disputed parliamentary election.

In a statement released by his office, Jeenbekov, who has faced calls to step down from protesters and political opponents, said that holding on to power wasn't "worth the integrity of our country and agreement in society".

``"For me, peace in Kyrgyzstan, the country's integrity, the unity of our people and calm in the society are above all else,'' Jeenbekov said.

Kyrgyzstan, a country of 6.5 million people located on the border with China, was plunged into chaos following the October 4 vote that was swept by pro-government parties. The opposition said the election was tainted by vote-buying and other irregularities.

Protesters then took over government buildings, looting some offices, and the Central Election Commission nullified the election. Jeenbekov kept a low profile in the first few days after the vote, using the in-fighting among protest leaders to dig in. He introduced a state of emergency in the capital that was endorsed on Tuesday by parliament.

Authorities deployed troops to Bishkek over the weekend and introduced a curfew. The move eased tensions in the city, where residents feared looting that accompanied previous uprisings and began forming vigilante groups to protect property. Stores and banks that were closed last week have reopened.

Jeenbekov is the third president of the former Soviet nation to be ousted by popular uprisings since 2005.

As in the uprisings that toppled presidents in 2005 and 2010, the current protests have been driven by the clan rivalries that shape the country’s politics.

New premier Sadyr Zhaparov, a former lawmaker who was freed from jail by demonstrators protesting the election results, was sworn into office on Wednesday after being approved by parliament. One of his first acts was to demand Jeenbekov's resignation.

Our journalists are working to update this story.