In a rare peaceful transition of presidential power, Kyrgyzstan inaugurated a new president Thursday, marking the first time the former Soviet Central Asian state chose a successor through votes at the ballot box, not the streets.
Former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev won a decisive victory in October, winning more than 60 percent of the votes to take over from outgoing President Roza Otunbayeva.
Today we're opening a new page in the history of Kyrgyzstan. The people expect a fair rule from us, Atambayev told top Kyrgyz officials and foreign guests at the national philharmonia building, Agence France Presse reported.
Otherwise, they will not forgive. The most important thing today is stability because without stability Kyrgyzstan has no future.
Since April 2010, when a revolution that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev resulted in ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks -- and killed hundreds of people -- Kyrgyzstan has been a divided nation. It's now up to Atambayev to heal those wounds and unite the country.
Our corrupt state should be left in the past. It's time to stop holding protests and go to work, the new president said.
While uniting his country is at the forefront of his presidential obligations, Atambayev will also have a large load of foreign policy dealings with Russia and the U.S., as both countries have a keen interest in the fate of Kyrgyzstan.
The Central Asian country on China's mountainous western border is home to a U.S. air base which is crucial to operations in nearby Afghanistan and has been the focus of competition between Washington and Moscow for regional influence, The Associated Press reported. Russia also controls an air base outside the capital.
Atambayev, 55, is a wealthy businessman who made a fortune in the early 1990s after setting up a printing house that published Russian translations of Mario Puzo's Godfather series, as well as more controversial books such as Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and the works of Marquis de Sade.
Speaking in both Kyrgyz and Russian during his inauguration speech, Atambayev spoke primarily of national cohesion. In Russian, he said Kyrgyzstan could only remain whole by fostering unity.
We must build a Kyrgyzstan in which every honest and decent person can feel completely free and safe, and in which charlatans, bandits and bribe-takers will be considered social outcasts, he said.
Guests at the inaugural ceremony included Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, the top American diplomat for South and Central Asia, an AFP correspondent reported.
Russia sent a relatively low-level delegation including Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court, and head of the Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belyaninov.