Kyrgyzstan to hold referendum on constitutional reforms

Kyrgyzstan is to hold a referendum next year that will ask citizens if they want to weaken the powers of the presidency in favor of parliament, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said Wednesday. A council in charge of constitutional changes, which is chaired by Bakiyev and includes lawmakers, ministers and civic activists, backed the president's proposal to hold the referendum to define what form of government citizens favored.

Bakiyev said people in this ex-Soviet republic would be asked if they wanted a presidential, presidential-parliamentary or a parliamentary republic. No date has yet been set. Currently, most power in the impoverished Central Asian nation belongs to the president.

Bakiyev came to power following a March uprising that ousted Soviet-era leader Askar Akayev. Bakiyev won the July presidential election, pledging to curtail presidential powers and give more power to parliament, a move that would require changes to the Constitution.

However, Bakiyev repeatedly signaled recently that he favored postponing constitutional reforms up until 2009. If citizens next year chose to preserve the current form of government, Bakiyev would continue to enjoy the same amount of power as his ousted predecessor. Bakiyev tried Wednesday to assure the Constitutional Council that he had no intention of abandoning the constitutional reforms but he proposed "not to drive ourselves into some time frame,” reports the AP. I.L.

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