12/12/2016, 14.30
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Referendum gives more power to prime minister, bans same-sex marriage

Kyrgyz voters approve 26 amendments to the constitution in a referendum. Some presidential powers go to the prime minister and same sex marriages are banned. Some claim vote rigging.

Bishkek (AsiaNews) - The Central Election Commission said 80 per cent of voters backed reforms proposed by President Almazbek Atambaev with about 42 per cent of the 2.5 million eligible voters casting their ballots.

The constitutional amendments include new powers for the prime minister relating to budget legislation whilst allowing the office holder to appoint and dismiss Cabinet ministers and regional governors without consulting the president. Voters also approved a law that bans same-sex marriage.

The amendments curtail the powers of the Kyrgyzstan's president. The latter will no longer chair the Defence Council, which controls the military and law enforcement agencies, but will head the Security Council (Article 64, Section 9, Paragraph 1), whose responsibilities however are not clear.

Before the referendum, the prime minister could "appoint and dismiss the heads of local public administrations upon proposals of local ‘keneshes’ in accordance with the procedures of the law (Article 89, Paragraph 7)." The amended version is shortened, and the prime minister may simply "appoint and dismiss the heads of local public administrations."

This has led critics to claim that the move is designed to allow Atambayev to stay in power or at least retain influence after his current term as president ends next year.

Atambayev, 60, has said that he does not plan to seek any new office, including that of prime minister. Nevertheless, several Kyrgyz political analysts believe that he wants to continue playing a role behind the scenes.

The other issue addressed by the constitutional referendum is same-sex marriage. The amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman will effectively outlaw gay marriages.

The measure parallels related legislation making its way through parliament that toughens punishments on promoting “a homosexual way of life” and “non-traditional sexual relations.”

Even though almost half the population voted, Iskhak Masaliev of the Onuguu-Progress Party spoke to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about vote rigging and corruption, saying that political parties had resorted to vote buying, saying "reliable people told me that they were offered 500 to 1,000 soms ( to ) per vote.”

Speaking at a press conference, Deputy Interior Minister Almaz Orozaliev reported five such cases -- three in the capital, Bishkek, and two in the northern Chui region.

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