Kyrgyz parliament fails to reach quorum to accept Akayev's resignation

The Kyrgyz parliament failed to gather enough lawmakers Tuesday to accept the resignation of ousted President Askar Akayev, leaving it unclear whether the resignation was formally in effect and showing that the country's politics remain unsettled.

Kyrgyz officials had pushed hard to secure Akayev's resignation, seeing it as a significant step toward restoring political order and giving a stamp of legitimacy to a new leadership that rose to power less than two weeks ago amid widespread chaos.

Failure to muster a quorum for such a key event underlined the unstable politics in this former Soviet republic in Central Asia since the longtime leader's ouster March 24 when protesters stormed his office.

The legislature fell two short of the 50 lawmakers it needed to form a quorum and accept a resignation letter that Akayev signed on Monday at the Kyrgyz Embassy in Moscow in the presence of a Kyrgyz parliamentary delegation.

The resignation was to have been presented to the 75-member Jogorku Kenesh on Tuesday. Lawmakers also planned to watch an 18-minute taped farewell message from Akayev.

Members of the parliamentary delegation that witnessed Akayev signing the letter in Moscow were among the lawmakers who failed to turn up Tuesday.

"We have not had quorum in a few days," lawmaker Soronbai Jeyenbekov complained, as Deputy Parliament Speaker Bolot Sherniyazov ended the session.

It was not immediately clear whether Akayev's resignation would still be considered effective Tuesday. It also was unclear if Akayev's message would still be broadcast on state television, as planned. Akayev had hoped to give his farewell address in person, but the country's new leadership warned that his return could spark further unrest and put his life in danger.

Some officials are angry that Akayev is being allowed to resign rather than face impeachment.

"He deserted the country and the people," said acting Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov. "Had he not left the country to chaos, then we could have considered accepting his resignation."

Akayev was ousted March 24 when a wave of protests that had seized southern Kyrgyzstan spread north to the capital. Demonstrators stormed and ransacked the presidential administration building, sending the president and his family fleeing. Akayev resurfaced in Russia several days later.

Popular anger against what many saw as rigged parliamentary elections earlier this year fueled the revolt, as did crushing poverty and widespread corruption.

The interim authorities have scheduled a new presidential election for June 26, but many feared its legitimacy would be undermined if Akayev clung to the presidency _ even in forced exile. Before the revolt, Akayev's term was set to expire after new elections in October.

Kyrgyzstan was the latest former Soviet country to be upended by popular protests. Ukraine last year and Georgia in 2003 also saw mass protests that ushered the opposition into power, and both dispatched envoys to Kyrgyzstan last week to offer their help.

In his address to the nation, Akayev "listed the nation's achievements during his 14Ѕ-year presidency, but also apologized to people who bore grudges against him," said Bermet Bukasheva, an aide to lawmaker Omurbek Tekebayev who led the delegation that witnessed the resignation.

"He voiced hope that the forthcoming presidential election will be democratic and fully transparent," Bukasheva said.

Akayev, 60, became leader of Kyrgyzstan in 1990, a year before it became independent in the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was regarded as the most reformist and liberal of the ex-Soviet Central Asian leaders, but his increasing intolerance of dissent and his family's growing wealth turned public opinion against him.

KADYR TOKTOGULOV, Associated Press Writer

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