BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – The Kyrgyz parliament on Monday accepted the resignation of ousted President Askar Akayev (search), clearing the way for new presidential elections this summer and giving a stamp of legitimacy to the country's interim leadership.
The legislators voted 38-2 to "suspend Askar Akayev's presidential powers in connection with his offer of resignation." Three of the 60 lawmakers present abstained. The others did not vote, but it was not immediately clear why.
Akayev fled the country amid a popular uprising two and a half weeks ago. Legislators initially rejected Akayev's April 4 offer to step down, arguing it was too dignified an exit for the disgraced leader.
Parliament also set July 10 as the date for the next presidential elections. Last week it canceled its own earlier decision to hold the vote on June 26. "We have legitimized the upcoming presidential elections, so that there will be no reason for any arguments and no postelection complications," Parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev said.
Last week, the legislators stripped Akayev of special privileges and guarantees he would have enjoyed as the Central Asian nation's first president, such as a lifetime membership in a security council, a right to address the parliament and government, free access to the media and immunity from prosecution for his family.
However, Akayev, now in exile in Moscow, retains immunity from prosecution — something guaranteed by the constitution.
Also on Monday, the country's Supreme Court overturned opposition leader Felix Kulov's corruption conviction, removing the last hurdle he faced in his bid for the presidency. Kulov, a former vice president and security chief, spent more than four years in prison for corruption and other charges that he says were politically motivated. He was freed immediately after Akayev's overthrow.
Kulov, who last week was also cleared of an embezzlement conviction, is expected to be the strongest opponent in the upcoming presidential contest to acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev (search), who also intends to stand for president.
Seen for many years as the most liberal leader in formerly Soviet Central Asia, Akayev wielded an increasingly heavy hand against opposition politicians in recent years.
Deep-rooted poverty and allegations of widespread corruption against Akayev and his family also fueled opposition, leading to demonstrations after this year's parliamentary elections. Many alleged the vote was manipulated to give him a compliant legislature. The protests culminated in March 24 storming of the presidential administration.
Kyrgyzstan (search) was the latest former Soviet republic to face popular protests. Mass protests ushered the opposition into power in Ukraine last year and in Georgia in 2003.