Kyrgyz President defends need for new constitutional amendments

[RFE/RL] Kurmanbek Bakiev defended on September 26 his decision to call a national referendum on October 21 to consider a new package of constitutional amendments, arguing that the new constitution would resolve the problems of "tribalism, gender [in]equality, and [under]representation of ethnic minorities," AKIpress and the 24.kg website reported. In comments during a meeting with officials from several districts of the Chuy region in the town of Kara Balta, Bakiev explained that the proposed constitutional amendments would result in a new parliament, "formed wholly on the basis of representation of political parties," which he argued would help "to get rid of regionalism and tribalism" and "expand the participation of women, young people, and representatives of different ethnic groups" in state bodies. He further stressed that a new Electoral Code would encourage political parties to "include in a list of candidates not more than 70 percent of people of one and the same sex, not less than 15 percent of people aged under 35, and not less than 15 percent of citizens belonging to various ethnic groups," in order to "encourage the involvement of an active part of citizens and groups of these categories in political life." Bakiev also said that "as the head of state," he "must treat equally all the political parties" adding that "I cannot and have no right to be the leader of any" political party. Bakiev also signed a decree on September 25 appointing Klara Kabilova as the chairwoman of the Central Election Commission. Kabilova, who previously held a prominent role as a presidential adviser, said that her main priority in the new position will be to "prepare the country" for next month's national referendum. Parliament formally approved the appointment the same day.

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