Kyrgyz Republic Should Postpone Referendum
Freedom House today expressed serious concern with Kyrgyzstan's current reform process and urged the government to postpone a constitutional referendum scheduled for next week.
In August 2002, in response to internal calls for reform, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev established a council to recommend constitutional reforms, including provisions to redistribute power from the president to parliament.
However, after receiving the Council's recommendations in October, the president appointed a new group of constitutional "experts" this month that redrafted the majority of the proposed provisions.
The proposals will be voted on in a referendum February 2, barely two weeks after their release to the public.
The public will be asked to reaffirm President Akayev's intention to remain in office until December 2005, as well as to approve hundreds of constitutional changes. The proposed changes have raised a number of concerns among democratic reformers in the country.
Many of the changes appear to increase the powers of the president at the expense of the parliament. Such changes could further set back democracy in Kyrgyzstan.
"Freedom House is concerned that the Kyrgyz people do not have sufficient time for comment and debate on the proposed changes, thereby making a mockery of the referendum process," said Executive Director of Freedom House, Jennifer Windsor.
Critics are particularly concerned about provisions that would allow former presidents and all members of their family to receive immunity from prosecution.
While the new draft contains some positive elements, including a reiteration of the rights and freedoms of Kyrgyz citizens, there are other ambiguously worded provisions that authorities could use to ban protests or other activities or activities with which they disagree.
According to the proposed provisions, the Supreme Court may not be authorized to hear constitutional questions, thereby eliminating an important avenue for citizens to redress violations of their constitutional rights.
"Freedom House urges the Kyrgyz government to postpone the referendum to allow for truly meaningful discussion and a greater public understanding" of the proposals," said Ms. Windsor.
Freedom House is a non-partisan organization that regularly monitors the state of political rights and civil liberties around the world.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.