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Central & South Asia
Kyrgyzstan readies for referendum
Ballot to be held on Sunday amid fears of renewed violence and low Uzbek participation.
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2010 16:44 GMT
The interim government's proposed constitution make the country a parliamentary republic [Reuters]

Kyrgyzstan has lifted a curfew in the southern city of Osh amid final preparations for Sunday's national referendum on a new constitution that would reduce presidential powers.

Authorities on Saturday said the vote would go ahead as scheduled, despite fears it could reignite ethnic violence in the south of the country that left hundreds of people dead in recent weeks. 

The interim government has hung posters around Bishkek, the capital city, with slogans like "vote for my country" and "our constitution, to change ourselves and our lives".

Officials even sent a plane to fly over the capital, dropping leaflets that urged people to remain peaceful during the vote.

Osh has been at the centre of the intense fighting between Kyrgyz and a minority Uzbek population that forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan's interim president, has said up to 2,000 people may have been killed in the violence.

Investigation

Investigators on Saturday began exhuming some of the bodies of those killed in the clashes that were not officially identified before being buried.

Bakyt Alynbayev, the acting deputy interior minster, said the investigation was "in the interests of the victims themselves" and "necessary for settling the issue of compensation".

IN DEPTH

 

  Blog: The pogroms of southern Kyrgyzstan
  Q&A: Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence
  Gallery: Humanitarian crisis
  Inside Story: Days of violence
  Videos:
  Violence and grief in Osh
  Interview with Otunbayeva
  UN: Unrest was planned
  Army accused of murder

The violence in June followed an uprising last April that led to the overthrow of Kurmanbek Bakiyev as president and the installation of the provisional government.

Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the north mostly supported the interim government, while Kyrgyz in the south largely backed Bakiyev.

Government officials accuse Bakiyev supporters of instigating this month's violence in an attempt to scuttle the referendum.

Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher, reporting from the capital Bishkek, said almost a million people have been impacted by the violence.

"There's a lot of people who won't be able to participate [in the referendum]," he said.

"That will only further the sense of disenfranchisement amongst the southerners in this country, in particular, the ethnic Uzbeks who want more of a voice from their central government."

The proposed constitution would make Kyrgyzstan Central Asia's first parliamentary republic.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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