BISHKEK Kyrgyzstan's ruling Social Democratic party picked Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov as its presidential candidate on Wednesday, making him a likely successor to President Almazbek Atambayev, whose term ends this year.
Social Democrats, who lead a majority coalition in the Central Asian nation's parliament and back Atambayev, will formally nominate Jeenbekov at a congress soon, its parliamentary faction leader, Isa Omurkulov, told Reuters.
Jeenbekov, 58, has in the past served as agriculture minister, regional governor and deputy chief of staff at Atambayev's office.
His brother Asylbek Jeenbekov is also a politician, a member of parliament and a member of Social Democratic party; he resigned as speaker in April 2016 when Sooronbai Jeenbekov was named prime minister.
Atambayev, who has run the former Soviet republic of six million since 2011 and is barred by constitution from running for another term, has brought Kyrgyzstan into Russia's close orbit during his time in office.
The mostly Muslim nation, which hosts a Russian military airbase and depends heavily on remittances from migrant labourers working in Russia, has had its two previous presidents toppled by violent protests.
Omurbek Tekebayev, a leader of the opposition party Ata Meken and one of Atambayev's most vocal critics, has been in detention awaiting trial on corruption charges since February.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Larry King)