PRAGUE, November 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Opposition and pro-government lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have announced an agreement on a new draft constitution that could lead to a mixed parliamentarian-presidential form of government. The legislature is expected to start examining the document early on November 8.
Opposition deputies say the breakthrough could signal the end of a months-long political crisis that has pitted them against President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
The deal emerged from a meeting of a joint conciliation commission set up earlier on November 7 with a view to finding a way out of the political standoff.
The meeting took place behind closed doors and lasted about three hours.
In the meantime, thousands of demonstrators continued to fill streets in the capital, Bishkek, in an effort to persuade the president to introduce stalled reforms.
"We, the opposition, have been saying from the beginning that if the [new] constitution is adopted, the rally will end."
Addressing reporters after the consultations ended, opposition parliamentarian and Asaba (Flag) party leader Azimbek Beknazarov sounded optimistic, saying that "if we were to adopt the [draft] constitution tomorrow [November 8] in its entirety, then I anticipate that all rallies would cease. We, the opposition, have been saying from the beginning that if the [new] constitution is adopted, the rally will end."
Opposition demonstrators have been picketing the building that houses Bakiev's administration and the government since November 2.
They have demanded that Bakiev agree to a new constitution that curtails his powers -- as he promised before his election in July 2005 -- or step down.
Opposition lawmaker Kanybek Imanaliev welcomed the compromise reached with the pro-government camp.
A Kyrgyz news agency, AKIpress, quoted him as praising his fellow legislators for finding "enough political will and common sense to come to an agreement."
Deal Would Curb President's Powers
Some of the many thousands who joined the opposition protests in central Bishkek (RFE/RL)
Under the deal, the current president, legislature, and prime minister would remain in place until 2010.
Marat Sultanov, the speaker of parliament, promised that parliamentarians will do their utmost to ensure the new constitution is adopted as soon as possible.
"We reached an agreement on nearly all points of the new draft," Sultanov said, adding that the Jogorku Kenesh, the country's parliament, would first amend a law on parliamentary procedures before adopting the new constitution.
Under the current procedural guidelines, the parliament may only amend the current constitution.
Sultanov said that under the compromise draft, the number of lawmakers would increase from 75 to 90.
Half of the deputies would be elected from party lists, and the other half from single-mandate constituencies.
If a party controlled at least half of the seats in parliament, it would automatically win the right to form the government.
Sultanov explained that -- under the compromise -- the president's powers would also be reduced "to an even greater extent than in the opposition-sponsored draft."
In particular, the president would surrender control over the National Security Service (SNB) and the Prosecutor-General's Office.
He would also lose the power to dismiss the head of the Central Election Commission or of the Accounting Chamber without the approval of parliament.
Bakiev did not immediately react to the news of the compromise. His representative in parliament, Alymbay Sultanov, did not attend the conciliation commission's meeting.
"The final document should unite society and the fragmented parliament,.. should [help] find a reasonable compromise and, at the same time, open a new and irreversible page of our history."
However, addressing reporters earlier on November 7, the Kyrgyz president had urged compromise, saying that "it would be possible to legally adopt either a new constitution or changes and additions to the existing fundamental law" if a process of conciliation were launched immediately.
Bakiev said "the final document should unite society and the fragmented parliament,.. should [help] find a reasonable compromise and, at the same time, open a new and irreversible page of our history."
Tensions have been high in Kyrgyzstan.
Riot police in central Bishkek on November 5 (ITAR-TASS)
Clashes erupted during the day between pro-government demonstrators and purported opposition supporters in central Bishkek, leaving at least three people with pellet wounds.
More rallies and counterdemonstrations were scheduled for November 8 in the capital and elsewhere.
During the day, Bakiev discussed the political situation in Kyrgyzstan in telephone conversations with his counterparts from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Both the Chinese and Russian foreign ministries had expressed concern during the day at developments in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and China are all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional grouping that also includes Tajikistan.