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Kyrgyzstan: Voters Approve Constitutional Reform

Bishkek, 3 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz citizens have approved constitutional reforms in a referendum that also confirmed President Askar Akaev's stay in office. The Central Election Commission said today that according to preliminary results, over 75 percent supported constitutional reforms in the referendum yesterday. The reforms would replace the two-chamber parliament with a single chamber.

Nearly 79 percent of voters also said "yes" to a question whether Akaev should stay in office until the end of his term in December 2005. Turnout was over 86 percent.

Akaev has said the constitutional reforms will strengthen democracy. The opposition said the reforms would increase the powers of the president at the expense of parliament.

The United States and human rights organizations also have criticized the draft. The U.S. has expressed concerns over the timing of the referendum, held only 20 days after it was announced. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declined to send observers.