New Kyrgyz constitution touted as path to stability comes into effect

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kyrgyz constitution comes into effect

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — A new constitution touted as a path to stability in Kyrgyzstan after waves of ethnic violence came into effect Friday, as members of the interim government began jostling for seats in the country’s new legislature.

The overwhelmingly approved constution dilutes presidential powers in favor of a European-style parliamentary system and has raised hopes that Kyrgyzstan could be Central Asia’s first true democracy. Kyrgyzstan’s Central Election Commission says more than 90 percent of ballots cast in Sunday’s vote were in favor of the constitution.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Tekebayev, who played a leading role in drafting the new constitution, said Friday he will step down from the Cabinet later this month to prepare for October elections.

“The role that I carried out in the provisional government will be abolished as it is no longer necessary, and I’m going to take part in the election campaign,” Tekebayev, leader of the left-leaning Ata-Meken party, told The Associated Press.

The impoverished former Soviet nation has been wracked by ethnic slaughter since an uprising in April led to the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and the dissolution of parliament.

The official death toll from the violence that tore apart the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad currently stands at around 300, although interim President Roza Otunbayeva has said as many as 2,000 people died in the rioting. Most of the unrest involved mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz trashing and torching ethnic Uzbek neighborhoods, and some 400,000 people have been displaced.

Tekabayev resignation follows Otunbayeva’s appeal for prospective candidates in her interim Cabinet to resign, saying that is the only way to ensure a level playing field in the parliamentary vote.

New political parties have begun emerging in recent weeks, indicating that the competition for influence in parliament will be lively and heated.

In Sunday’s referendum, voters also approved keeping Otunbayeva on as leader until the end of 2011. Her inauguration as caretaker president will be held Saturday.

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