Battle of rival parliaments ends in Kyrgyzstan, raising prospects for stability

Lawmakers on Tuesday ended a damaging battle for legitimacy between rival parliaments, boosting prospects for political stability in Kyrgyzstan after last week's ouster of longtime leader Askar Akayev.

Legislators from an old parliament had struggled for supremacy against newly elected rivals since Thursday, when the Central Asian nation's politics were thrown into turmoil by opposition-led protesters who overran government buildlings and toppled Akayev's government.

The old parliament's upper house ended its defiance and disbanded Tuesday, one day after a similar move by its lower house, deferring to a new legislature packed with lawmakers supported by the self-exiled president. The move apparently signaled an accommodation between the old elite and the emerging leadership of former opposition figures.

The chamber's speaker, Muratbek Mukashev, read a statement signed by 32 lawmakers saying that the 45-seat house would end its work to avoid further conflict. "We believe that we have fulfilled our task, especially during the difficult time for our country," Mukashev said.

"You have taken the right and historic decision," said Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who had shifted his allegiance from the old parliament to the new one on Monday. "I hope your decision will bring calm."

Opposition-led protesters had risen up against Akayev's government in anger over allegations of vote-rigging in this year's parliamentary elections in February and March, and many opposition supporters felt the newly elected legislature should be overthrown along with Akayev.

The Supreme Court hastily reinstated the old parliament the night of Akayev's ouster. But the new parliament, which already had convened two days earlier, secured the backing of country's election commision over the weekend, and the country's new opposition-dominated leadership increasingly swung toward the new parliament in recent days.

At the height of the conflict, the two parliaments held competing sessions on separate floors of the same building.

Bakiyev, a former opposition leader, was chosen as acting president and prime minister by the old parliament, and he initially opposed the new parliament, but backed the new legislature after it named him prime minister on Monday.

Lawmakers who disbanded Tuesday cited continuing complaints over the legitimacy of this year's parliamentary elections, saying "the demands of most of the people for electing a new parliament have not been met."

About 150 protesters gathered outside the parliament building while lawmakers met inside, some demanding that the new parliament dissolve and others asking that results for disputed districts be annulled. But the protesters soon dispersed.

Bakiyev, who maintains 20 of the 75 seats in the new parliament are in dispute, reiterated pledges that those races would be reviewed by the courts and Central Election Commission.

"We cannot dissolve the whole parliament," he said.

The parliamentary dispute threatened to plunge the impoverished nation of 5 million people deeper into crisis after the ouster of Akayev, whose popular support dwindled during a 15-year rule marked by increasing authoritarianism and corruption allegations.

Akayev fled to Russia last week after protesters siezed control of administrative buildings in widespread demonstrations.

However, the acting prosecutor-general in the interim Kyrgyz government claimed Tuesday that Akayev had gone to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan's northern neighbor, and that the former opposition leaders now in power were in talks seeking his resignation.

The opposition accused Akayev's government of manipulating elections to give him a compliant legislature so that he could stay in power longer than allowed under the constitution.

Akayev's departure made Kyrgyzstan the third former Soviet republic in the past 18 months - after Georgia and Ukraine - where the opposition was swept to power by mass protests against long-entrenched leaders.

Strategically located, the country hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases, and has aimed to cultivate good relations with both countries. It shares a border with China, has been a conduit for drugs and is a potential hotbed of Islamic extremism.

KADYR TOKTOGULOV, Associated Press Writer

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