11/25/2020, 10.54
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Bishkek, new constitution, new protests

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The country's multi-ethnicity, its religiosity, are being questioned. Above all, the new charter allows the president to run several times in the elections. According to political scientist Askat Dukenbaev, all these discussions are "a weapon of mass distraction".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The most unstable of the Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, is preparing to approve a new constitutional charter. On 23 November the discussion of the preamble of the new fundamental charter began in the Bishkek parliament. All proposed amendments will go through a referendum on January 10, 2021, along with the early presidential elections.

From the outset of the first session, the conflicts arose on the opening lines of the document, in which it is proposed to call the population of the country "the Kyrgyz people" or the "people of Kyrgyzstan", focusing on the ethnic origin of the citizens. The real subject of the discussion, in fact, is the expansion of the prerogatives of the president, on the model of the new Russian constitution, which presumably aims to strengthen the role of the initiator of the changes, the interim prime minister Sadyr Zhaparov (photo 2).

All the political initiatives in Kyrgyzstan, in the last two months of social unrest, are moreover rather dubious: the constitutional reform project was approved by the parliament on November 17, even if the mandate of the deputies expired on October 28.

Even at the beginning of October Zhaparov was being held in prison for holding a hostage, but the mass protests against the parliamentary elections, also outside the time limits, allowed him to return to freedom and rise to power, to the point of taking over the government and the provisional functions of president of the country. On November 15, Zhaparov voluntarily abandoned his office, in order to have the right to stand in the presidential elections.

In this whirlwind of changes, Zhaparov managed to impose the discussion on constitutional reform, the project of which was also signed by another provisional president, Talant Mamytov. A Constitutional Assembly was also convened, made up of 89 people, including deputies, officials, professors and social activists, who were presented with a pre-written draft of unknown author.

According to the rector of the Russian-Kyrgyz University for International Relations Lejl Sydykov, a member of the Constitutional Assembly, the preamble of the new constitution does not accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as "the people of Kyrgyzstan are made up of representatives of various ethnic groups ... a clash is sought between the various national groups”.

The director of the national commission for religious freedom, Akin Toktaliev, proposes to remove the proclamation of Kyrgyzstan as a "secular state", since "98% of the citizens are made up of believers", mostly Muslims. Together with other members, he proposes the definition of "Country founded on science and progressive culture". The proposed text actually removes also the guarantees of protection of freedom of speech, inserted in the previous text of 2010.

The main change, however, concerns the president's right to stand for new mandates, even if only for five years and no longer for six, and to form a new superior state body, the State Council (similar to Kazakhstan and Russia), called Khurultai , like the Grand Kahn Council of the medieval empire of Genghis Khan, an increasingly fashionable historical figure in the lands of the former Soviet empire. As this institution is conceived as a "people's council", it also proposes to change the national title from "republic of Kyrgyzstan" to "People's Republic of Kyrgyzstan". The president would also be granted the right to appoint the leaders of local administrations and of the entire judiciary, again in imitation of the new Russian constitution.

On Sunday 22 November a demonstration of about 500 people was held in the central square of Bishkek (photo 1), organized by opponents of the referendum and of the constitutional reform itself, which is called the khanstitution in the slogans, written for the personal use of Sadyr Zhaparov.

One of the leaders of the opposition party Ata-Meken ("The Fatherland"), Omurbek Tekebaev, accuses the group in power of "swindling the people" in bypassing the country's Constitutional Court. The Kyrgyz political scientist Askat Dukenbaev, in an interview with Azattyk radio, speaks of the reform used as "a weapon of mass distraction". In the presidential elections the main competitors together with Zhaparov would be the leader of the Kyrgyzstan party Kanat Isaev, and of Butun Kyrgyzstan (“United Kyrgyzstan”) Adakhan Madumarov

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