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Kyrgyzstan: Parliament Rejects High Court Ruling, Votes No Confidence

Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Court is under fire from the parliament (RFE/RL) September 18, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Kyrgyz parliament today passed a vote of no confidence against the country's Constitutional Court after it ruled last week that constitutional amendments passed last year are illegal.

The parliament said the matter is beyond the Constitutional Court's competence for it to make such a decision.

There was a heated emergency session in parliament as deputies laid the foundation for a showdown with the Constitutional Court, and probably also with President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

The debate first centered on the Constitutional Court's ruling that new constitutions adopted in November and December last year were illegal, a decision that restored the 2003 constitution as the governing document.

But since the approval of the 2003 constitution, the "revolution" of March 2005 took place, driving the president out of office. At a massive demonstration in the capital, Bishkek, last November, protesters demanded -- and seemingly received -- a new constitution.

Lawmakers at today's emergency session of parliament criticized the court's decision to declare the 2003 constitution superior to the later constitutions, and passed a measure of no confidence in the court.

Parliament also unanimously approved a measure calling on the president to name new candidates for the court within two weeks.

Deputies Versus Justices

Deputy Iskhak Masaliev lashed out at Constitutional Court Chairwoman Cholpon Baekova, saying she was present when the November 2006 constitution was signed and she approved of it at the time.

Parliamentarian Sadyr Japarov had more critical comments about Baekova, calling her "unfaithful." "I can say that she has brought shame on all Kyrgyz women," Japarov said.

There was also criticism of the two deputies -- Melis Eshimkanov and Kabai Karabekov -- who called on the Constitutional Court to rule on the legality of the 2006 constitutions.

Deputy Akhmatbek Keldibekov spoke of the thousands of people who demonstrated for a new constitution in Bishkek last November. Keldibekov said Eshimkanov and Karabekov had "spent a lot of money to bring those people [to Bishkek] from regions around the country and now they have caused the efforts of those people to be for nothing."

Speaker Marat Sultanov announced that parliament also voted to form a commission that would review all the activities of the Constitutional Court since 1993. "The preliminary assessment is: how can we accept the decision on the basis of the [2003] suspended constitution?" Sultanov asked.

There were some deputies who called for returning to the 1993 constitution, a document that equally distributed power between the three branches of power but was drastically altered by referendums in 1994, 1996, and 1998 that increasingly gave more power to the executive branch of government.

Parliament today also passed a law on referendums that President Bakiev vetoed in 2005.

Parliament's actions today may cause trouble for the deputies. On September 17, Justice Minister Marat Kaiypov warned that the Constitutional Court's decision is irrevocable and a matter that is beyond debate or discussion.

'No Right' To Question The Court

"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."

At today's parliamentary session, Deputy Kanybek Imanaliev suggested that the president and parliament resign and "accept responsibility together" for the current mess with the constitution. Imanaliev said that mess is because decisions on the constitution were not based on law but were instead made for political reasons.

President Bakiev is scheduled to address the nation on September 19. Under the authority of the 2003 constitution that gave his predecessor huge powers, Bakiev has a range of options available to him.

The president could side with parliament or with the Constitutional Court; he could call for a referendum on a new constitution or simply move to dissolve parliament and call for new parliamentary elections.

(Amirbek Usmanov of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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