April 13, 2016 / 10:22 AM / in 2 years

Kyrgyz parliament elects president's ally as prime minister

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan’s parliament elected Sooronbai Zheenbekov, an ally of President Almazbek Atambayev, as prime minister in a unanimous vote on Wednesday, consolidating power in the hands of the Social Democratic party which backs both of them.

Having control over the parliament and the government should help the Social Democrats engineer a smooth succession when Atambayev’s term in office ends at the end of 2017. He has ruled out running for another term.

Unlike its autocratic Central Asian neighbors, Kyrgyzstan has a relatively powerful parliament while limiting presidential powers. Two Kyrgyz presidents have been toppled by violent protests.

The Social Democrats nominated Zheenbekov, 57, the president’s deputy chief of staff, on Tuesday, following the resignation of his predecessor Temir Sariyev whose cabinet parliament members have accused of corruption.

Sariyev’s political party, Akshumkar, is not a member of the ruling coalition which is led by the Social Democrats and includes three other parties, Kyrgyzstan, Onuguu-Progress and Ata Meken. Together, the four parties have 80 parliament seats out of 120.

The Central Asian nation’s economy has come under pressure from the recession in Russia and slowdowns in other neighboring countries such as China and Kazakhstan.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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