MOSCOW – Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev (search), who fled the country last month after demonstrators stormed his offices, signed a resignation agreement Monday, a key step toward restoring stability in the Central Asian nation.
Akayev signed the agreement at the Kyrgyz Embassy in Moscow, said Kyrgyz lawmakers who helped arrange the deal. They said the resignation is effective Tuesday.
The ex-Soviet state has been in turmoil since an anti-Akayev demonstration on March 24 exploded into a clash outside the presidential administration building. Riot police guarding the building fled and protesters rushed inside. Akayev surfaced in Russia several days later.
By stepping down, he would remove the last major obstruction to holding new presidential elections, tentatively scheduled for June 26. If Akayev did not step down, the legitimacy of such elections would be open to question.
"Akayev has made an important decision. The people needed it very much," lawmaker Tashkul Kereksizov said.
The 60-year-old Akayev had led Kyrgyzstan (search) since it became independent in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. He was regarded as the most reformist and liberal of the ex-Soviet Central Asian leaders, and during his first years as president, Kyrgyzstan acquired the image of an island of democracy in a region noted for heavy-handed autocratic leadership.
But in recent years opponents complained that he had become increasingly authoritarian and repressive. The revolt culminated weeks of protests by opposition supporters who accused Akayev of manipulating the results of parliamentary elections to ensure a compliant legislature.
After he fled, the political crisis deepened as the previous and newly-elected parliaments competed for legitimacy. There were two nights of looting and gunfire in the capital in which at least three people were killed.
The chaos began to ebb last week after the previous parliament ceded authority. Although the new legislature has been seen as dominated by Akayev supporters, it nominated one of his longtime opponents, Omurbek Tekebayev, as parliament speaker. Tekebayev led the resignation talks with Akayev, who has refused to recognize Kurmanbek Bakiyev (search), the interim president.
Full details of the resignation agreement were not immediately available, but Akayev said Russia and Kazakhstan were listed as guarantors. Akayev reportedly used neighboring Kazakhstan as a refuge for a day or two after leaving Kyrgyzstan and before coming to Russia, where he may decide to remain.