Kyrgyz are going to the polls amid tight security to vote on a new constitution that the country's interim government hopes will legitimize its rule.
Kyrgyzstan's interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, voted in the southern city of Osh, which was the epicenter of a wave of ethnic bloodshed in which at least 275 people were killed this month -- and possibly hundreds more -- in violence between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.
"In this referendum, the people of Kyrgyzstan are proving that the country is united, standing on its feet and going forward," Otunbayeva said after casting her ballot. "As a people, we want to heal the wounds we have sustained in recent times."
Some 8,000 police officers and an equal number of defense volunteers have been deployed to prevent fresh outbreaks of violence.
The referendum calls on voters to support changes to the constitution that would devolve power from the president to a prime minister, paving the way for parliamentary elections in October.
Otunbayeva leads the interim government that assumed power after the revolt in April that overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. She needs the vote to establish the legitimacy of the government, which has never been voted in.
The central election commission said 5.4 percent of the national electorate had voted within an hour of polls opening.
compiled from agency reports