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Draft Kyrgyz Constitution Would Empower Parliament At Expense Of President

  • RFE/RL

The head of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, Roza Otunbaeva (left), and her deputy, Almazbek Atambaev, confer in Bishkek.

The head of Kyrgyzstan's interim government, Roza Otunbaeva (left), and her deputy, Almazbek Atambaev, confer in Bishkek.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government has introduced a draft constitution that would alter the country's political system by giving more power to parliament while reducing the president's authority.

The interim leaders say the proposed constitution, which was introduced April 26 and would have to be approved in a national referendum set for June 27, would prevent future presidents from concentrating too much political power or using pro-presidential parties to control parliament.

Widespread discontent over the powers wielded by former President Kurmanbek Bakiev helped lead to his ouster after at least 85 people were killed during bloody antigovernment street protests earlier this month. In the parliament elected in December 2007, 71 of 90 seats were held by the ruling Ak-Jol party.

RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service Director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev explains that the draft constitution would hand two powers previously held by the president over to the parliament.

"Parliament will be the key to preparing the government structure and in defining what party will form the government," Tchoroev says. "At the same time, parliament will have more tools to deal with the president's power. The main feature of the proposed parliament structure is that it will consist of a multiparty system and it includes not only the possible ruling party but also several other parties."

Check On Executive Branch

Ishenbay Kadyrbekov, a member of the Constitutional Council that authored the draft, explains that the basic law would provide a key check to the executive branch's powers.

"What had existed [in Kyrgyzstan] before? The main principle was the presidential republic, in which the president defined the executive branch of power," Kadyrbekov says. "The new [draft] constitution's main principle is that people's representatives -- lawmakers -- will define the executive branch. Thus, the main power in forming [the government] will be given to the parliament."

Another author of the draft constitution, interim government deputy head Omurbek Tekebaev, said no single political party will be allowed to have more than 50 percent of the parliamentary seats, even if it were to win the absolute majority of the vote.

This proposed change has raised questions among some critics who argue that the distribution of parliamentary seats should be determined solely by the outcome of elections.

The Constitutional Council that prepared the draft has said the document takes into consideration Kyrgyzstan's realities and past experiences. The country has had a history of flawed elections since gaining independence in 1991, highlighted by the Ak-Jol-dominated parliamentary poll of 2007.

The leaders of the interim government, which will be in place until parliamentary and presidential elections take place in October, say they want to give more opportunities for political parties to enter parliament.

Key Roles Retained

According to the draft constitution, the president of the country will still be elected on the basis of a nationwide vote for no more than two five-year terms in office, as was the case under the previous law.

Although the proposed constitution sets limits on presidential powers, many key roles are retained in the executive branch.

The president would appoint the country's prime minister and members of the cabinet and would have the right to dismiss the prime minister and individual members of the cabinet. With parliament's agreement, the president would also appoint the prosecutor-general and the deputies within that office.

In a significant difference from the previous constitution, the draft document limits the president's say in the makeup of the Central Electoral Commission. While the body previously operated under the control of the presidential office, the president would now be able to appoint or dismiss three out of 13 members of the commission. The rest of the body would be appointed by nongovernmental groups and political parties.

Interim officials say the new structure would help pave the way for fair and transparent elections, while preventing future presidents from exploiting their power to rig votes.

written by Farangis Najibullah, with contributions from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service