Kyrgyzstan: Changes to Constitution Bolster Authoritarianism

Washington

In response to far-reaching amendments to Kyrgyzstan’s constitution winning approval in a public referendum on December 11 – changes that include granting more authority to security services and restricting powers of the judiciary — Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The referendum was part of the government’s efforts to dismantle Kyrgyzstan’s democratic achievements, and gives the government new, authoritarian power,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “The government now has constitutional authority to disregard international law, arbitrarily restrict human rights in the name of state security, persecute LGBTI citizens, and weaken the judiciary.”

Background:

On December 11, citizens voted to approve 26 changes to the nation’s constitution. The changes, varying in scope and degree, affect more than a dozen articles in the country’s 2010 constitution, which incidentally includes a clause that no changes would be made until 2020. The referendum polarized the government, eventually leading to the collapse of the ruling six-party Parliamentary coalition in October. President Atambayev was a vocal champion of the proposed amendments.  The Central Election Commission declared the referendum successful after it garnered 80 percent approval from among the 42 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots.

Kyrgyzstan is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2016, and receives a democracy score of 5.89, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.

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.

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