Kyrgyzstan is on course to become Central Asia’s first parliamentary democracy after voters approved a new constitution yesterday following two months of unrest.
More than 90 percent of voters supported the constitution, with 98.8 percent of the votes counted, the central election committee in Bishkek, the capital, said today. Turnout was almost 70 percent, the Associated Press reported, citing the elections committee.
The interim government of President Roza Otunbayeva went ahead with the referendum, which shifts the country away from presidential rule, after clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens killed as many as 2,000 people two weeks ago. Otunbayeva’s government blamed former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted in April, for inciting the violence.
“We are now moving toward democracy,” said Ulan Turdaliyev, a 31-year-old banker in Osh, the southern city where this month’s violence was centered. “We’re moving toward a parliamentary republic. Imagine that in Central Asia where there are khans everywhere,” he said, using the local term for ruler. “It’s a big step.”
All of the other Central Asian states -- Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- have presidential forms of government.
Under terms of the referendum, parliamentary elections will be held Oct. 10, and Otunbayeva will remain caretaker president until next year.
While Russian President Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the vote, he said parliamentary government in Kyrgyzstan may lead to repeated shakeups in the legislature and the uncontrolled transfer of authority in the former Soviet Republic.
“I do not see very well how the model of parliamentary republic would work in Kyrgyzstan,” Medvedev told reporters in Toronto, where he attended Group of 20 summit. “Would it not, in the end, help extremist forces come to power?”
Russia and the U.S. maintain air bases in Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. relies on the Manas base outside Bishkek to support military operations in Afghanistan.
The provisional government succeeded in creating peaceful voting conditions, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said today in a statement.
“The citizens of Kyrgyzstan turned out in large numbers to vote for a new, democratic and peaceful future for their country,” the Vienna-based OSCE said. “It is now up to all political forces to work together to improve the electoral framework ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.”
Turdaliyev said the government should call elections as soon as possible, not waiting for the October date set out in the referendum.
“People are tired,” he said. “Everybody wants peace and stability.”