Kyrgyzstan votes on new constitution amid tight security

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BISHKEK - Thousands of people in Kyrgyzstan cast their votes in a referendum on a new constitution Sunday, some two weeks after bloody ethnic clashes in the Central Asian republic.

Voter turnout stood at around 55 percent countrywide, two hours before the polls closed, officials said.

Voting took place amid tight security, with thousands of soldiers and security forces monitoring the process. Officials said tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks who had fled amid Kyrgyz-Uzbek fighting had returned to their home towns to vote.

Interim President Rosa Otunbayeva cast her ballot in the southern city of Osh, the scene earlier this month of some of the bloodiest ethnic clashes, which left around 2,000 people dead.

The new, German-style constitution would signal a “bright future” for the country, Otunbayeva said.

“The results of this referendum will show that the country is united and that the people are one. It will stand strong on its own feet and move forward.”

After the ouster of authoritarian president Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April and the following unrest, the interim government hopes the referendum will restore some stability to the country and enhance its own credibility.

With the situation in the south of the country still tense, the state of emergency has been extended to Aug 10. Otunbayeva has assured human rights groups that everything was being done to bring about reconciliation between the two ethnic groups.

In Jalal-Abad, Mayor Maksat Zheinbekov said Sunday’s voting had proceeded peacefully.

“People came out of voting stations with tears in their eyes. They hope that after the referendum there will be peace in the city and the entire country,” he said.

Over two million people were eligible to take part in the referendum. The proposed constitution would install a parliamentary republic, the first of its kind in Central Asia.

Results are expected in the coming days.

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