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Central & South Asia
Kyrgyz voters back new constitution
Early returns from referendum show 90 per cent support for parliamentary democracy.
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2010 06:49 GMT


Election commision said 90 per cent were in favour of the plan to limit the president's powers

Voters in Kyrgyzstan have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution to create a parliamentary democracy, according to preliminary results from a referendum held on Sunday.

Early returns showed that 90 per cent of voters approved the measure, the country's election commission has said.

Final results are expected on Monday.

Voter turnout was unexpectedly high with 69 per cent of registered voters casting their ballots.

Roza Otunbayeva, the interim president, called the referendum a success.

"Today is a very important, historic day for the country. The people have put a full stop on the epoch of authoritarian, nepotistic management," she said.

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

Otunbayeva said members of her interim government will continue to pass necessary legislation until October, when voters elect a parliament.

There had been fears of a low turnout because of simmering unrest in the south, but observers from several international bodies, including the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said they were pleased with the outcome.

"They seem to support the claims that the turnout today was surprisingly high," said Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher, reporting from Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.

Reconciliation hopes

There were no major reports of violence or voter fraud.

IN DEPTH

 

  Blog: The pogroms of southern Kyrgyzstan
  Q&A: Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence
  Gallery: Humanitarian crisis
  Videos:
  Interview with Otunbayeva
  UN: Unrest was planned
  Army accused of murder

Authorities said on Saturday that all 75,000 people who fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan during the recent ethnic violence had now returned.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Edil Baisalov, a former senior interim government official, said: "After the Kyrgyz-Uzbek clashes, it felt wrong to continue with the referendum when hundreds of thousands of our citizens were internally displaced. So I was quite critical of the interim government going ahead with the move.

"The fact that thousands of people are going out to vote is a very positive sign. The people of Kyrgyzstan are determined to keep our sovereignty and our statehood, which is what makes this a great day of hope."

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

Officials even sent a passenger jet to fly over the city, dropping leaflets that urged people to remain peaceful during the vote.

Centre of violence

Kyrgyzstan's southern region has been at the centre of the intense fighting that forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

referendum facts
 
  Citizens are being asked to cast a single yes-or-no vote on three proposals:
   
  A new constitution, which would reduce the powers of the president and make Kyrgyzstan Central Asia's first parliamentary republic
  The interim government. If endorsed, Roza Otunbayeva will remain interim president until December 31, 2011.
  Abolition of constitutional court, which the interim government claims was heavily influenced by allies of an ousted president.
  The constitutional court's powers will now be transferred to the supreme court.

Otunbayeva has said up to 2,000 people may have been killed in the violence.

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

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 sabotage the referendum.

The clashes were the worst ethnic violence to hit impoverished Kyrgyzstan since it gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.

Observers have described the unrest as a violent campaign by armed Kyrgyz fighters against ethnic Uzbeks, who make up about 14 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's population of 5.3 million.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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