Kyrgyz voters back new constitution

Early returns from referendum show 90 per cent support for parliamentary democracy.

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

    "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.



      Blog: The pogroms of southern Kyrgyzstan
      Q&A: Kyrgyzstan's ethnic violence
      Gallery: Humanitarian crisis
      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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