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Factbox: Kyrgyzstan slides again into political turmoil

(Reuters) - The Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan is teetering into chaos as rival opposition factions battle for power after forcing the cancellation of Sunday’s parliamentary election and the resignation of the prime minister.

People attend a rally following post-election protests during which opposition groups took control of most of the government's apparatus, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov

Here are some key facts about the former Soviet republic and its turbulent recent history.

WHAT HAS TRIGGERED THE CURRENT CRISIS?

- Two establishment parties that support closer links with Russia won the most parliamentary seats, according to preliminary election data, but opposition parties denounced the results as fraudulent and began protests in the capital Bishkek. Western observers said the vote had been marred by vote buying.

- Kyrgyz security forces used teargas and water cannon to disperse protesters on Monday but President Sooronbai Jeenbekov says he ordered them not to open fire after one person was killed and nearly 700 people injured. Protesters stormed government buildings, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov’s government quit and the election commission annulled the vote.

- Three rival groups are now claiming leadership, including the Ata Zhurt party whose candidate for prime minister, Sadyr Zhaparov, was freed from jail by the protesters on Tuesday but then had to flee after an angry mob broke into the hotel where parliament had convened. He has called for constitutional reform before new elections are held in 2-3 months.

- Kyrgyz politics is complicated by the involvement of powerful regional clans and the amorphous nature of political parties built around personalities rather than ideologies.

WHY DOES THE TURMOIL MATTER?

- Kyrgyzstan, which borders three other ex-Soviet republics and China, has long been a focus for geopolitical competition between Beijing, Moscow and Washington.

- It houses a Russian military base and its leaders and main opposition groups have traditionally backed close ties with Moscow. Under Russian pressure, Kyrgyzstan in 2014 shut down a U.S. military base that had supplied U.S. troops in nearby Afghanistan since 2001.

- Most of Kyrgyzstan’s 6.5 million people are Turkic-speaking Muslims. Moscow, Washington and Beijing are all concerned about the possible advance of radical Islam from Afghanistan into Central Asia.

- A member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, Kyrgyzstan is economically very reliant on remittances from an estimated 1 million Kyrgyz migrant labourers working in Russia.

- China is the biggest foreign investor, though projects such as the construction of a highway linking the north and south of Kyrgyzstan have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Kyrgyzstan is also an important regional hub for Chinese consumer goods trade.

- Western, Russian, Chinese and Turkish companies are involved in mining Kyrgyzstan’s rich gold deposits. The Russian-controlled company operating Kyrgyzstan’s second biggest gold mine said it had suspended operations after intruders smashed and torched facilities on Tuesday.

- London-listed Kaz Minerals KAZ.L has suspended operations at its Bozymchak gold and copper mine in Kyrgyzstan, but reported no attacks.

- Kyrgyzstan's largest gold mining operation, Kumtor, run by Canada's Centerra Gold CG.TO, has so far reported no serious security incidents. Centerra said it was monitoring political events but that its operations were continuing uninterrupted.

TURBULENT MODERN HISTORY

- Kyrgyzstan, which became independent after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, saw two presidents deposed by revolts in 2005 and 2010. More than 400 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

- A third former president, Almazbek Atambayev, fell out with his successor, Jeenbekov, and was jailed on corruption charges. The protesters freed him on Tuesday.

Compiled by Gareth Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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