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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Quits

ReutersAzim Isabekov
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan's prime minister resigned Thursday after the president thwarted his attempt to dismiss several Cabinet ministers to placate the opposition.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev accepted Prime Minister Azim Isabekov's resignation and appointed the leader of the centrist Social Democratic Party, Almazbek Atambayev, as acting prime minister, his press office said.

"We must be prudent and wise and prevent the country from destabilizing," Bakiyev said in a statement. "I hope this ... will yield positive results and will help stop tensions from escalating in society and will make those who want to grab power by any means think twice."

Isabekov on Wednesday said he was firing the first deputy prime minister, along with the Cabinet's chief of staff and three ministers, and invited the opposition, which has been mounting pressure on Bakiyev, to nominate replacements.

The opposition refused Isabekov's invitation, however, and Bakiyev said he would not approve the Cabinet firings.

Thursday's development did little to satisfy the opposition's stronger radical wing, which rejected Bakiyev's proposal to form a unity government and renewed its call on him to resign and hold an early presidential election.

"Our position is clear. We don't intend to change our plans. Our main demand is early elections," said Azamat Kalman, a spokesman for opposition leader Felix Kulov.

"We do not intend to put forward our candidates for the government. ... Atambayev's appointment has shown that the president is unpredictable. Atambayev has shown that he is just a political player."

The parliament, packed with opposition lawmakers and supporters of both Atambayev and Kulov, still has to vote in Atambayev.

Parliamentary officials said the chamber would discuss the appointment first in separate committees and only then vote on it, as early as Friday.

Atambayev, who is a former industry minister, left the opposition several days ago, calling for dialogue with president.

Isabekov, who was appointed just two months ago, has been a staunch Bakiyev loyalist, and it was not clear whether Wednesday's move and subsequent resignation was a sign of disagreement with Bakiyev.

Isabekov's office said he resigned "for the sake of stability in Kyrgyzstan."

Bakiyev won a presidential election judged free and fair by international monitors by a landslide in 2005, but his opponents have accused him of failing to fight corruption and bring law and order to the country.

Reuters, AP