Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on Sunday, November 22, to protest against the proposed revision of the Constitution. The contested amendments, which are the subject of public discussions, aim to strengthen the powers of the President: they 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 than one mandate at 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. He was appointed Prime Minister in the process, then obtained the interim presidency.
Among the other changes to the Constitution envisaged is the introduction of the ban on any publication that infringes “The morality and culture of the people of Kyrgyzstan”. This amendment caused concern among the NGO Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the latter having estimated in a statement on Friday that this 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.