Kyrgyz President Calls for National Referendum on New Constitution

[RFE/RL] Speaking in an annual televised address to the nation, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev called on September 19 for a referendum on a new constitution. Bakiev set October 21 as the date for the referendum, in a move seeking to end the political deadlock between the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court and parliament over the court's recent overturning of a set of constitutional amendments that were adopted in November 2006. That ruling, which prompted parliament to adopt a vote of no confidence in the court, held that the constitutional amendment process illegally violated the requirement that "changes or amendments to the constitution can be made only through a referendum," effectively nullifying the present constitution and restoring the February 2003 version. The constitutional amendments that were adopted in late 2006 imposed new limits on presidential authority following widespread demonstrations, but were later significantly modified and watered down by pro-government parliamentarians in December 2006, restoring much of the power to the presidency. The president also recognized the Constitutional Court's ruling and explained that "we have no choice but to accept the rule of law." He revealed that the referendum would consider a new constitution containing "changes to the way parliament is elected" and "providing for the formation of the parliament on the basis of party lists." That change was already part of the 2006 amendments that did away with single-mandate districts.

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