10/24/2007, 00.00
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OSCE complains of irregularities in Bakiyev’s referendum

President Bakiyev called the referendum to back his constitutional reforms. Officially 80 per cent of voters cast their ballot, 75 per cent in favour of changes, but many doubts persist about the actual turnout and the legality of many ballots. The president also dissolves opposition-controlled parliament.

Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A “high number of irregularities” in Sunday’s constitutional referendum in Kyrgyzstan have been reported, this according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Its observers “noted that the population had little awareness of the constitutional reform proposals that were being decided on in the referendum,” said Markus Mueller, OSCE head in the capital, Bishkek. “This fact may raise serious questions about the voter turnout of more than 80 per cent, which was preliminarily reported by the Central Election Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic.”

Some OSCE observers were also obstructed; others saw "massive ballot-stuffing" during the referendum. And the US Embassy in Bishkek expressed concerns over "credible reports" of vote violations, saying the conduct "did not meet international standards".

The new constitution would boost President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s grip on power, increases the number of parliamentarians from 75 to 90, abolish the death penalty, invalidate any law that sought to curtail a person's rights and freedoms and uphold the right to assemble, demonstrate and strike.

On Monday, following the announcement by the Central Election Commission that about 75 per cent of voters cast their ballots in favour of the changes, Mr Bakiyev dissolved parliament, ostensibly because of existing clashes between different branches of government and unacceptable interference by the legislative branch in areas that are under the jurisdiction of the executive branch.

Parliament met today for its final session. The prime minister is expected to announce the resignation of his government soon. Bakiyev is expected to name a caretaker government until parliamentary elections. In the meantime, he will govern the country practically alone. Elections must occur within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament.

Despite criticism of his decision, Bakiyev is seen as a liberal among his more hard-line Central Asian neighbours, and some Kyrgyz support him for the sake of stability.

Opposition lawmakers called his decision to dissolve parliament “illegal” and an “abuse of power.” But many analysts believe that the race between Bakiyev’s Ak Zhol party and the opposition remains competitive even though the former might be favoured by new electoral rules.

The political situation in the country has been volatile since 2005 when street protests led to the ouster of veteran President Askav Akayev and his replacement by Bakiyev.

Since then the country has been unstable and the government deadlocked by a clash between parliament, elected under Akayev, and the president.

The former Soviet republic is home to the only US military base in Central Asia.

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