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Kyrgyzstan: Court Ruling Restores 2003 Constitution

The latest changes restore lost powers to President Kurmanbek Bakiev (RFE/RL) September 17, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court ruled on September 14 that two packages of amendments to the country's constitution that were adopted late last year are illegal.

The court ruled that the functioning constitution of Kyrgyzstan is the document adopted in a national referendum in 2003.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament is now set to hold an unscheduled session September 18 to discuss the country's constitution. Kyrgyz parliament speaker Marat Sultanov today told journalists that parliament is working furiously to interpret what the Constitutional Court's ruling means.

"We have already referred the matter to lawyers. They have to consider everything, do research, and prepare all their conclusions by tomorrow," Sultanov said. "Imagine, for instance, that we are passing several drafts today, and tomorrow they say these laws contradict the constitution. That could lead us to a dead end."

Reviving A Confrontation

Early last November, thousands of people demonstrated in Bishkek demanding a number of constitutional changes. Foremost among them were amendments that took powers from the executive branch and transferred them to the legislative branch.

It appeared the demonstrators succeeded when President Kurmanbek Bakiev signed a hastily amended new constitution on November 9 saying, "There are no losers here." But that version of the constitution only lasted until December 30, when pro-presidential lawmakers approved another amended version that restored some of the presidential powers lost in the November document.

After the September 14 decision by the Constitutional Court, all that activity in November and December can now be seen as a waste of time. The confusion that preceded the adoption of those two versions of the constitution is quickly returning.

On September 16, Justice Minister Marat Kaiypov told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the Constitutional Court's decision is irrevocable and no person or body -- including parliament -- could even discuss it.

"There is no way to complain about the Constitutional Court's decision. And no state institution has the right to discuss or annul it," Kaiypov said. "All government officials and state institutions must implement the Constitutional Court's decision on time. If they don't implement it then they should be brought to court."

Opposition leader and former parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev pointed out that some of the appointments made -- including appointments to the Constitutional Court -- since the start of this year are now void since they were made under constitutions that have been ruled invalid.

"Three members of the Constitutional Court were elected for 15 years according to the December constitution, and according to the 2003 constitution they are only elected for 10 years," Tekebaev said. For that reason, the three court members' mandates "automatically lose their force, and the activity of the Constitutional Court is therefore invalid. The chairperson of the Central Election Commission is also illegitimate, and four members of the Election Commission are also illegitimate because they were not named by parliament."

Illegitimate Prime Ministers?

Other opposition figures have gone farther, saying any decisions taken this year are invalid because they were made under an invalid constitution. Opposition deputy Temir Sariev has even questioned whether the appointments of new prime ministers in January and March were legitimate.

Aziza Abdrasulova, the leader of the nongovernmental organization Kylym Shamy, told RFE/RL that it seems as though Constitutional Court Chairwoman Cholpon Baekova is trying to satisfy everyone and -- in so doing -- has satisfied no one.

"There are some mullahs who can find [permission] for everything in Shari'a law," Abdrasulova said. Constitutional Court Chairwoman Baekova "found a way for a third presidential term for Askar Akaev, and then she found a way for the legalization of a revolution. Then she found a way for the legalization of constitutional changes in November, then on December 30. And now she has found a way to reject all these changes. The Constitutional Court should be a court of principle. Because of the political decisions they make, now we are facing this situation."

But opposition lawmaker Kabai Karabekov agreed with the Constitutional Court's decision. Karabekov and another opposition lawmaker, Melis Eshimkanov, were the people who appealed to the Constitutional Court to overturn the 2006 constitutional amendments. Karabekov said now there is not only an opportunity to get it right, but also a chance for all Kyrgyz citizens to participate in the adoption of a new constitution.

"Now an opportunity has opened, a complete opportunity for everyone, for the political structure, for all those who support the [Kyrgyz] White House, for the opposition, for political parties, for the nongovernmental sector, for civil society to be included in a normal political process," Karabekov said.

President Bakiev has already announced that he will address the country on September 19, and his aides say the Constitutional Court's recent ruling will be one of the topics of that address. Analysts have not overlooked the fact that under the 2003 constitution, Bakiev has the power to call for a referendum without needing any approval from parliament or any other body in the government.

(Tynchtykbek Tchoroev and Venera Djumataeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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