Thousands of opposition supporters gathered in the main square in Kyrgyzstan's capital Wednesday to press president to resign.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev sought to head off the opposition protest by signing constitutional amendments curtailing his power Tuesday, but the opposition rejected his move and showed up in full force just two years after demonstrators drove his predecessor from power in the strategically important nation.
Thousands of protesters gathered at seven locations across the capital, Bishkek, and marched to the Ala Too square carrying banners reading, "No to Bakiyev!" and "Reforms without Bakiyev!" Most participants were young and many were armed with massive wooden sticks.
About 8,000 protesters gathered at the square near the presidential headquarters, setting up dozens of yurts — traditional tents made of skins or felt. Demonstrators said the protest would continue until Bakiyev steps down.
"We are sure that we will be able to force Bakiyev to resign," said protester Fatima Tagayeva, 55.
Officials said that around 4,000 police were put on duty to maintain order in Bishkek during opposition rallies.
The prospect of large protracted protests that could throw the country of 5 million people into chaos is a concern to both Washington and Moscow. The United States and Russia each have an air base in Kyrgyzstan.
The clan-dominated nation also has been divided by historic rivalry between the north and the south. Bakiyev and his entourage come from the south, while many opposition leaders are from the north.
"We are disgusted by Bakiyev's policy," said one of the protesters, 20-year-old Mirlan Ozubekov from the northern Issyk-Kul region. "He only puts the southerners in official jobs."
Underlining the tension between the north and the south, Deputy Interior Minister Temirkan Subanov said that authorities deployed 300 elite police from the southern Osh region to help protect order in the capital.
Bakiyev further angered the opposition in December when he reversed several constitutional amendments and recovered the authority to form the Cabinet. The opposition has since been stepping up pressure on Bakiyev and called for protests just over two years since demonstrators drove his predecessor, President Askar Akayev, out of office.
Bakiyev also accused the opposition of plotting a coup and threatened tough action if the demonstrations jeopardize public security.
Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev said Tuesday that any attempt by protesters to storm the president's headquarters, which also houses the government, would be put down by force.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16