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Asia-Pacific

Kyrgyzstan votes in favour of new constitution

media Local election committee count ballots after closing polls in Osh Reuters

First results from Sunday's referendum on Kyrgyzstan’s new constitution show voters to be  overwhelmingly behind a charter that seeks to give the country’s parliament greater power whilst limiting that of the president.

With the majority of votes counted, the country’s election commission said on its website that 90.7 per cent of votes were in favour of the constitution and just 7.96 per cent were against it.

Opposition leaders said that they were suspicious of the figures however, describing them as impossibly high at a time when the state is struggling back to its feet following deadly ethnic riots in the south of the country earlier this month which sparked fears of a collapse of the country.

The new constitution will establish Kyrgyzstan as the first ex-Soviet parliamentary democracy Central Asia. At the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned it could fuel extremism in the volatile state.

Analysts say that a parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan is crucial if the country is to legitimise new authorities who took power after riots in April that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

The constitution also gives the go-ahead for parliamentary elections in early September to bring in a permanent government.

The leader of the current interim government, Roza Otunbayeva, called the results of the constitutional referendum a “victory” for Kyrgyzstan and said that the referendum allows her to continue in her role as a transitional president.

But numerous international observers warned it came too soon after last month’s violence.  Human Rights Watch said it threatened to make the situation "even more volatile" and the International Crisis Group urged the government to reconsider the holding of the poll entirely.

There were also fears as to the pragmatics of the vote in wake of the violence. Authorities temporarily lifted a curfew in the south, enabling the vote in the southern city of Osh, the main site of clashes. Government officials admitted that up to 16 per cent of the electorate in some regions did not to vote, about 200,000 people nationwide.

Nevertheless Otunbayeva put the turnout at an unexpectedly high 65 per cent and said that the voting had proceeded calmly and without unrest.

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