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Kyrgyzstan forms new government amid constitution row

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BISHKEK: Kyrgyzstan formed a new government on Thursday following the collapse of the ruling coalition last week amid a row over a controversial constitutional referendum next month.

The previous government unravelled last week after President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic Party quit the ruling coalition.

Atambayev faces fierce criticism over the December 11 vote to reform the constitution, with opponents accusing him of trying to extend his control over the country. His single six-year term in office ends next year.

The country’s parliament said in a statement on Thursday that Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov would stay in place to lead the new government made up of three parties, including the Social Democratic Party.

But two other leading political blocs have now quit the coalition to join the Respublika-Ata-Jurt party in opposition after their leaders protested the proposed constitutional reform.

Kyrgyzstan is commonly viewed as the most democratic nation in the ex-Soviet Central Asian region dominated by strongman rulers.

But the opposition says the president is angling to maintain his influence by shifting more powers to the prime minister and cabinet — Atambayev has denied he will seek the position of prime minister in order to cling to office.

Kyrgyzstan — which borders China — has been plagued by periodic bouts of instability since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The current Kyrgyz constitution has been in place since a bloody revolution in 2010.

Former Kyrgyz presidents Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev were overthrown in street protests in 2005 and 2010 respectively.  Ethnic violence that erupted several months after Bakiyev’s ouster claimed hundreds of lives.

The ex-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan both held referendums this year on constitutional changes that strengthen the power of incumbent autocrats.

In September, Turkmenistan also adopted changes strengthening the position of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov but did not put them to a popular vote.

 

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