Kyrgyzstan: Revolution Revisited
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Constitutional Reform: Constitutional reform represents one of the most critical

PROMISES:

Constitutional reform was a card played by most candidates in the July 10, 2005 presidential election. In May, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, declaring that he supports a "mixed" form of government, told voters that as president his first action would be "to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of one person or one branch of government," the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Before agreeing to join forces with Bakiyev, Feliks Kulov, Kyrgyzstan's current prime minister, also made constitutional reform his main election promise. "My goal is to switch to a parliamentary republic within five years," Kyrgyz news agency AKIPress reported him as saying just over a month after the Tulip Revolution.

In late April 2005, at one of the largest demonstrations in Bishkek since the change of government, protestors made constitutional reform a central demand. Within days, President Bakiyev called for the creation of a draft constitution by August 2006 that would be submitted to parliament by September. Prime Minister Kulov confirmed the necessity of carrying out the reform. "It is essential to create a system of checks and balances that will not allow for the dictatorship of one person," he said in an interview with 24.kg news agency.

That demand was repeated on November 2, 2006, when opposition and civil society groups took to the streets of Bishkek to advocate a constitutional limit on presidential powers, or the departure of President Bakiyev and Prime Minister Kulov.

RESULTS:

After initial delay and proposals to postpone the vote on a new constitution until 2009, Bakiyev in May 2006 appointed pro-government MP Azimbek Beknazarov to head a commission to draw up three different constitutional drafts in consultation with civil society groups, the media and political parties. In apparent sync with government plans for a public education campaign, Kyrgyz newspapers at this time began publishing proposed constitutional drafts and explanations of how parliamentary and presidential forms of government work.

By August, the commission completed its task. All three drafts reportedly support the election of parliamentary deputies by party lists, the election of judges via a special assembly, and "an expansion of presidential powers," according to 24.kg. In early September 2006, the commission had submitted the drafts to the president and met with civil society members to discuss the drafts further. A parliamentary discussion was expected after the legislature's September holidays. A decree signed by President Bakiyev in January 2006 called for a referendum on a new constitution in "the last quarter" of 2006, but as of mid-September no exact date for the vote had been set.

Finally, on November 9, 2006, after a week of increasingly raucous protests in the Kyrgyz capital, President Bakiyev signed into law a new constitution that, among other changes, expanded parliament's size (from 75 members to 90; the change would occur in 2010) and provided for parliament's ruling party to select members of the Kyrgyz cabinet.

Watch a News Broadcast of This Promise:
March 24, 2006 press conference by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
Credit: NTS Television

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