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Kyrgyzstan: Constitutional Referendum Results Due Today

Bishkek, 3 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Results are expected today from Kyrgyzstan's referendum on changes to the country's constitution. Kyrgyz electoral officials said more than 80 percent of the country's 2.5 million eligible voters took part in yesterday's referendum. Voters were ask to say "yes" or "no" to the package of changes, which included transforming the current bicameral parliament to a unicameral body.Opposition groups charged the changes would give more powers to President Askar Akaev.

International organizations criticized the poll, which was scheduled only 20 days ago by Akaev's government. But Akaev said the new constitution would strengthen democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

"Kyrgyzstan is the first country of the CIS member states to adopt a stable constitution for a stable epoch. I think we will strengthen democracy in our country. We will create good conditions in order to protect human rights and the freedom of the people [by adopting the new version of the constitution]."

Police in Bishkek temporarily detained Omurbek Tekebaev, leader of the Atameken Socialist Party, about an hour before the polls closed yesterday.

Tekebaev told RFE/RL that police accused him and other poll observers from his party of using a car allegedly involved in criminal activities. Tekebaev was freed after about four hours.