The draft constitution would reduce the size of the Kyrgyz parliament and give the president the power to appoint judges and heads of executive offices.
Voters in Kyrgyzstan who went to vote on Sunday for a widely expected constitutional referendum will see President Sadyr Japarov’s powers expand while allowing him to run for a second time .
Japarov, a 52-year-old populist, has pushed his political opponents aside since coming to power following the political crisis in October, in which he was first released by supporters. get out of prison, start a dizzying promotion to leadership.
He asserted his dominance by posting a resounding victory in the January presidential election. In a parallel poll, voters also showed preference for the president over congressional rule, fueling his efforts to overhaul the constitution.
Japarov’s proposed amendments promise a presidential term consistent with Kyrgyzstan’s Central Asian neighbors, ending a decade-long trial with a mixed system. The draft new constitution will reduce the size of the country’s parliament by 25% to 90 seats and give the president the power to appoint judges and heads of executive offices.
Japarov and his supporters hope strengthening the presidency will help stabilize the country after their leaders were toppled by violent uprisings in 2005, 2010 and 2020.
But local critics have called the draft document a “constitution” for extending the power of the president.
Emil Dzhuraev, a political analyst based in Bishkek, said the proposed changes would centralize power in the presidential office. Dzhuraev told Al Jazeera: “To such an extent, there is basically no national organization that can do anything without the participation or signature of the president.
In Bishkek, Dukot Yyndybaev, a small business owner, told Al Jazeera that reforms could be a setback in the path to full democracy.
“The Kyrgyz people have a strong will towards freedom,” he said. “We do not tolerate setbacks from democracy. There are more serious issues that need to be addressed domestically than in the constitutional referendum, such as unemployment. It is better not to destroy what we have achieved so far ”.
Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe have also criticized the lack of “meaningful and inclusive public consultations and debates in parliament” prior to the law. was presented to residents in a general comment published in March.
The two agencies are also concerned about the “very prominent role and privilege of the President”.
Just last year, Japarov was serving a prison sentence for kidnapping a regional governor amid a dispute over a gold mine when he was released by protesters who dispute the results of the October parliamentary elections.
Immediately after his release, Japarov mobilized stoning supporters to expel President Sooronbay Jeenbekov from office and then assume the interim head of state. His sentence has been overturned.
A recent poll by the United States-based International Republican Institute found that Japarov is by far the most trusted politician in the country.
The proportion of voters who believe that Kyrgyzstan is on the right track rose from 41% last August – when Jeenbekov took power – to 70% in February and March, poll data showed.
If voters support the draft constitution, presidents including Japarov will be able to run in a row again, reversing the one-term limit imposed on leaders during the fundamental law overhaul into in 2010.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a key ally, expressed support for the constitutional impetus in February when Japarov traveled to Moscow on his first foreign visit, saying he hopes it will bring. to stabilize the country with 6.5 million people.
Voting in the referendum starts at 02:00 GMT and will end at 14:00 GMT with expected results as soon as the polls finish. 30 percent of voters need to vote to confirm the election.