Kyr­gyzs­tan votes in di­vi­sive con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BISHKEK: Cit­i­zens in ex-Soviet Kyr­gyzs­tan went to the polls yes­ter­day to vote on a raft of amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion pro­moted by the coun­try’s leader, sev­eral of which have been slammed by rights groups. The Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion said that polls had opened across the Cen­tral Asian coun­try at 0200 GMT for a vote an­a­lysts say is likely to see the changes passed.

Kyr­gyzs­tan, a moun­tain­ous ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim repub­lic of six mil­lion, is the most demo­cratic of the so-called “stans” but also the most po­lit­i­cally volatile. In just 25 years of in­de­pen­dence the coun­try has ex­pe­ri­enced two rev­o­lu­tions un­seat­ing pres­i­dents in 2005 and 2010 and eth­nic vi­o­lence. This is the sev­enth time the coun­try is putting con­sti­tu­tional changes to a vote.

“Past changes to the ba­sic law have shown that our politi­cians and their lawyers do not know how to make re­forms,” Zaini­din Kur­manov, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer par­lia­men­tary speaker told AFP. “There is no cer­tainty that any­thing worth­while will emerge from these amend­ments,” he said. In Oc­to­ber, two par­ties ex­ited the coali­tion govern­ment headed by Kyr­gyz Pres­i­dent Al­mazbek Atam­bayev’s So­cial Demo­cratic Party of Kyr­gyzs­tan in op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed changes.

If passed, the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter will gain new pow­ers over bud­get-re­lated leg­is­la­tion and will not need par­lia­men­tary or pres­i­den­tial ap­proval to ap­point and dis­miss min­is­ters. Atam­bayev has re­peat­edly de­nied ac­cu­sa­tions he will drop down into the strength­ened premier’s role when his sin­gle six-year term ends next year. A by­law cre­ated when the con­sti­tu­tion was last amended in 2010 said the ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tion should re­main un­til 2020 but par­lia­ment and the ju­di­ciary en­dorsed the vote.

LGBT pro­pa­ganda

Other amend­ments that ap­pear to threaten in­di­vid­ual rights have drawn crit­i­cism at home and abroad. One high­lighted by the Coun­cil of Europe’s Venice Com­mis­sion de­fines mar­riage as “be­tween a man and a woman” rather than “two per­sons” as pre­vi­ously. Kyr­gyzs­tan has come un­der fire from the West since 2014 for con­sid­er­ing an LGBT pro­pa­ganda bill echo­ing one passed in key ally Rus­sia, but the law has not pro­gressed beyond the draft stage.

An­other amend­ment rights groups have railed against re­moves the govern­ment’s obli­ga­tion to con­sider the opin­ions of in­ter­na­tional rights bod­ies re­gard­ing cit­i­zens’ com­plaints of rights vi­o­la­tions. Crit­ics have ar­gued the govern­ment has not ex­plained the changes to the pub­lic, but backing from pro-govern­ment me­dia and the ab­sence of an ef­fec­tive ‘no’ cam­paign means they are likely to pass. Bolot Os­monov, 58, who works as an en­gi­neer in the cap­i­tal Bishkek said he would vote in favour of the amend­ments yes­ter­day.

“I sup­port the amend­ments and I sup­port Atam­bayev. In five years he has shown he doesn’t steal. His fam­ily aren’t in govern­ment po­si­tions. These changes will bring more sta­bil­ity,” Os­monov told AFP. A 47-year-old taxi driver Zhomart Bolot­bekov told AFP he would not be vot­ing, how­ever. “It seems elec­tions is all we do, but they don’t change any­thing. Why should I go?” Kyr­gyzs­tan is one of the two poor­est coun­tries to emerge from the for­mer Soviet Union with a strong de­pen­dence on cash trans­fers sent home by hun­dreds of thou­sands of Kyr­gyz work­ing in Rus­sia.

— AFP

This un­dated photo re­leased by North Korea’s of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency (KCNA) yes­ter­day shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front C) dur­ing a com­bat drill of the ser­vice per­son­nel of the spe­cial op­er­a­tion bat­tal­ion of the Korean Peo­ple’s Army Unit 525.

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