Kyrgyzstan: demonstration against amendments to the Constitution

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Hundreds of people demonstrated on Sunday in the center of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to protest against a proposed revision of the constitution aimed at strengthening the powers of the president in the central Asian country.

These amendments, which are the subject of public discussions, are intended in particular to give back to the Head of State the right to appoint the government (this is currently a prerogative of Parliament) and to cancel the ban on carrying out more a mandate to this post.

The initiators of these changes in the Constitution propose to submit them to a referendum on January 10, the same day the presidential election will take place in Kyrgyzstan.

The amendments are actively supported by Sadyr Japarov, the prime minister and interim president who resigned last week to run for this election.

The current Constitution prohibits an outgoing head of state or a sitting prime minister from running for the highest office.

Sadyr Japarov, a populist, took advantage of the chaos following the October 4 legislative elections to propel himself to power.

These elections, won by parties close to the then president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, were contested by the opposition and followed by clashes which left one dead and 1,200 injured.

The result of the ballot was overturned and Mr Jeenbekov had to resign. He was replaced by Sadyr Japarov, released from prison by his supporters during this crisis and who was subsequently appointed prime minister, then obtained the interim presidency.

Other changes to the Constitution envisaged include the introduction of a ban on any publication that undermines “the morality and culture of the people of Kyrgyzstan”.

This amendment has caused concern among the NGO Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the latter having said in a statement Friday that it could “seriously violate people’s right to freedom of expression.”

The most pluralist country, but also the most unstable in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan experienced two revolutions in 2005 and 2010, which forced two ex-presidents into exile. A third, Almazbek Atambaïev, the predecessor of Mr. Jeenbekov, is meanwhile imprisoned.

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