BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – Ousted President Askar Akayev (search) has agreed to resign without returning to the country, the parliament speaker said Saturday, signaling a major step toward easing the political uncertainty that has plagued the nation since the government was overthrown.
Akayev, who ruled the former Soviet republic for 15 years, fled to Russia last month after protesters stormed the presidential palace, angry over a parliamentary election they said was rigged.
"We have received a verbal agreement" from Akayev to sign his resignation letter outside the country rather than returning and stepping down during a session of parliament, as constitutionally required, the legislature's speaker Omurbek Tekebayev (search) said Saturday.
Akayev's resignation would ease political tension between interim leaders in the Central Asian nation, who have disagreed over how to move forward following his sudden departure.
The former opposition leaders now in power want him to formally step down to boost their legitimacy after the forceful takeover, which was marred by looting and sporadic violence. But they've sparred over whether he must return first.
Tekebayev said members of a commission seeking Akayev's formal surrender of power would travel to Moscow on Sunday to meet with the former president.
"Akayev has agreed to step down voluntarily and through his representatives in Bishkek conveyed his desire to meet in Moscow and to conclude all the necessary formalities in the embassy of Kyrgyzstan," Tekebayev told Russia's state-run Channel One.
In media interviews from an undisclosed location outside Moscow, Akayev has said he was prepared to resign if given adequate guarantees of security and immunity from prosecution, repeatedly suggesting he would only step down in Kyrgyzstan (search) — not abroad.
Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has warned Akayev not to return, saying it could spark new unrest and his security could not be guaranteed. Lawmakers on the commission, however, have said it would be preferable for him to resign before parliament, as the constitution stipulates.
Felix Kulov, a prominent former opposition figure, also said Friday that the legitimacy of the June 26 presidential election would be in doubt unless Akayev returns to Kyrgyzstan to resign at a parliament session.
Both Bakiyev and Kulov have announced plans to run for president.
Constitutional Court chairwoman Cholpon Bayekova (search) told reporters Saturday that Akayev's resignation could be signed outside the country as long as it was witnessed by a notary.
"It wouldn't be right to insist that Akayev return and put his life in danger," Bayekova said, adding that the presidential vote would probably be held as scheduled regardless of whether Akayev resigns.
The March 24 uprising was fueled by resentment over alleged corruption and poor living standards in the impoverished nation of 5 million people. It was further stoked by ire over February and March parliamentary elections, which the opposition said were rigged to fill the 75-member legislature with pro-Akayev lawmakers.
Akayev, 60, had led Kyrgyzstan since 1990, before it gained independence in the Soviet collapse. He was long considered the most democratic leader in the five ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, but was accused of increasingly cracking down on dissent in recent years and was reviled for alleged corruption.