Kyrgyz voters back changes to strengthen presidential power

Moscow, Nov 28 (EFE).- Kyrgyzstan’s voters went to the polls on Sunday and gave their approval to the recent constitutional changes to increase presidential power pushed by President Sadir Japarov after the so-called October Revolution.

The majority of the support came from the impoverished Central Asian nation’s main nationalist parties backing Japarov.

“Our wise people selected their best sons and daughters to the future Parliament. These elections come in response to the will of the people, the Constitution and international norms,” said Japarov after the polls closed, as quoted by AKIpress, going on to emphasize that the authorities did not interfere in the electoral process.

The president naturally expressed his approval after the announcement of the preliminary results of the voting, given that although the Mekenchil (Patriotic) party, which he founded 11 years ago, was unable to exceed the 5 percent threshold necessary to secure seats in the legislature, he will be able to count on the backing of the Ata-Zhurt group, of which he was a member up until 2010.

This nationalist (rightist) party received the most votes of any political grouping in Sunday’s election, garnering more than 199,000 votes, or more than 16 percent.

In addition, Japarov will have the support of the Ishemin (Creed) youth party and the Intimak (Harmony) party, which are ideologically close to him, as well as the backing of the Justice and Development, Yiman Nuru and Legalize parties, which are also his legislative allies.

The only party that will be in the legislative opposition is the Butun Kyrgyzstan (United Kyrgyzstan) group, which also was the only opposition party to secure enough votes to get seats in Parliament in the earlier ill-fated legislative elections.

The Sunday election was a repetition of the October 2020 vote, which was annulled by the Central Election Commission two days after the balloting because of complaints that the vote was rigged in favor of parties backing then-President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and intense protests that resulted in his ouster.

Japarov – who was freed from prison during the disturbances, first took over as prime minister and was then elected president in January – last April had pushed for a constitutional referendum that changed the country’s political system from a parliamentary one to a presidential one, a shift criticized by Western nations claiming that it will affect the independence of the branches of government.

The new Constitution not only modified the structure of Parliament by reducing the number of lawmakers from 120 to 90 and establishing a mixed election system, meaning that voting is done for party lists, but also allowed for the concentration of extensive power in the president to the detriment of the rest of the executive branch and Parliament.

In addition, the number of potential presidential terms was increased to two five-year terms, up from one six-year term, and a new “consultative and coordinating” entity, the Kurultai – or Popular Assembly – was created with broad powers and under the control of the head of state.

But even with all the cards in favor of Japarov, the specter of the 2020 legislative elections once again rose up after the president announced last Friday the discovery of alleged preparations for a coup d’etat after the vote and authorities arrested 15 people who were supposedly linked to the plot.

According to Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Committee, the people arrested, among whom are three parliamentary candidates, were planning to organize “massive disturbances” after the vote with the motive of “later escalating the situation.”

In addition, the coup suspects were allegedly planning to orchestrate, with the help of other political forces, including the losers of the elections, “confrontations with the police and (then) take power by force.”

Japarov, who said he had the names of the people involved and proof against them, was formerly a key member of the Kyrgyz opposition and spent three years in prison accused of trying to violently seize power in 2012.

Meanwhile, election day passed calmly and seemingly with few violations albeit marked by voter participation that was significantly below that of earlier elections, barely exceeding 33 percent and well below the 56.5 percent in the 2020 parliamentary vote.

The authorities explained the decline in turnout by citing the new electionlaws that prohibit voters from changing their precinct registration, something that could enable election fraud, another of the changes included in the Constitution promoted by Japarov.

According to a survey organized on Election Day by the Business Council Against Corruption, “The people voted with their heart and without pressure, (and) there was no buying of votes.”

“The voters are not selling their votes since they feel responsible for the country’s future,” said the director of the organization, Nuripa Mukanova, as quoted by AKIpress.

EFE fss/ie/bp

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