05/05/2010, 00.00
Send to a friend

As Kyrgyz discuss constitutional reform, neighbours’ embargo strangling the economy

A team of experts is drafting a new constitution, which should be submitted to a nation-wide referendum at the start of summer. Kyrgyz authorities are seeking ousted President Bakiyev’s extradition from Belarus. Meanwhile, the country’s neighbours are keeping borders shut, seriously damaging the Central Asian nation’s economy.
Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Kyrgyzstan’s caretaker government has ordered prosecutors to seek the extradition of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is currently in Belarus where he fled a month ago via Kazakhstan. In the meantime, the country is discussing a proposal for constitutional reform drafted by a ten-member team of experts that was released on 26 April. This is happening at a time when Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China closed their borders with Kyrgyzstan following the recent political unrest, cutting off import or export of goods.

Mr Bakiyev is in Belarus where he fled via Kazakhstan after turmoil on 7-8 April forced him out of power. About 85 people died and hundreds were injured in clashes after he ordered police to fire on demonstrators.

In order to prevent that someone like Bakiyev from exercising too much power, a new constitution is being drafted that would introduce new checks and balances. Kyrgyzstan in the post-Soviet era has not had a president who has served out his elective term.

The president, under the proposed draft, would take on more of a ceremonial role, with the primary responsibility for managing the government resting with a prime minister.

The president would retain some responsibilities for foreign policy and personnel appointments, but foreign treaties and agreements would require the coordinated approval of the executive and legislative branches.

The president would lose the right to appoint all 13 members of the Central Election Commission.

Opposition parties would have the power to select one-third of the Central Election Commission’s members, as well as hold the deputy speaker's seat, and budget and defence committee chairmanships in parliament.

Elections rules would also prevent any one party from holding more than an absolute majority in parliament.

Critics note that the proposal remains vague on fundamental questions, like the division of power.

An appointive body of leading politicians and civil society activists, the 75-member Constitutional Council, is now reviewing the draft. It should complete its work by 19 May.

The caretaker government plans to hold a nationwide referendum on 27 June.

In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan is paying a severe economic price for its political instability. The Central Asian nation is suffering from a de facto trade embargo, as China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are keeping their respective borders closed. Many Kyrgyz who used to buy goods in these countries for resale at home are now cut off.

Kyrgyzstan’s agriculture sector is also heavily dependent on imported supplies from China, produce from Uzbekistan, and petrol from Russia via Kazakhstan. Since many agricultural products grown in Kyrgyzstan are exported, closed borders could mean a disastrous harvest later this year.

Kazakhstan and China are Kyrgyzstan’s first and second largest trading partners. Because of the April unrest, Kyrgyz textiles have lost almost all bulk buyers from Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. Many workers are now on mandatory and unpaid indefinite leave.

Almazbek Atambayev, a top official in the Kyrgyz provisional government, has repeatedly pled with Kazakh authorities to re-open the border, closed since 7 April.

Some Kazakh media outlets have reported that authorities in Astana are keeping the border closed because of a supposed glut of weapons floating around in Kyrgyzstan

Some experts suggest that the blockade is essentially political. Kyrgyzstan’s neighbours fear democratic contagion should the small Central Asian nation succeed in reorienting itself in a more democratic direction.

“Neighbouring countries are scared of the spread of revolutionary, free-thinking moods,” Temirbek Shabdanaliev, chairperson of the Association of Freight Carriers. “I remember the upheaval of 2005 [the Tulip Revolution] when Kazakhstan’s mass media was intentionally showing the most terrible scenes of looting in Bishkek to intimidate the population.”

What is more, caretaker leaders in Kyrgyzstan have promised to return state assets that former president Bakiyev may have illegally sold or otherwise distributed, among them some properties now held by Kazakh businessmen. Kazakhs fear their investments could be nationalised or seized in the looming round of restitution and score settling.

In the short run, the Kyrgyz economy is projected to shrink in the second quarter, after showing promising signs of growth in the first.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Bakiyev’s "counter-revolution"
EU delegation in Central Asia talking human rights and oil
UN reports at least 400,000 refugees in Kyrgyzstan
Violent clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks leave 49 dead and hundreds of wounded
Kyrgyzstan under pressure to repatriate refugees to Uzbekistan


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”