I am interested in hearing people's thoughts on the impetus for and implications of the February 10th referendum in Kyrgyzstan. (A news clip follows this message.)
1) Is Kyrgyzstan no longer the so-called democratic exception in Central Asia? Is Akayev headed down the same path as Nazarbayev?
2) How do the constitutional amendments in Kyrgyzstan compare to Nazarbayev's consolidation of power in Kazakhstan?
3) Are the consitutional amendments merely the latest stage in a larger trend toward presidental consolidation of power and "non-democratic" moves in Kyrgyzstan?
What is the status of opposition groups and the independent press now in Kyrgyzstan? (I know there have recently been arrests of a few activists and independent newspapers have closed, allegedly for lack of funds. However, I have not been able to find detailed information on these events.)
4) Are there additional or more accurate reasons for Akayev's consolidation of power--besides to allow for the acceleration of reform and reduce clan and regional influence in the government? (In the summer of 1994, word in Bishkek was that Karimov and Nazarbayev were pressuring Akayev to reduce democratic freedoms in Kyrgyzstan because of the alleged effects on Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan's citizens.)
I look forward to your insights and first-hand reports from the region.
Department of Political Science
The University of Michigan
NEWS CLIP (Jamestown Foundation's Broadcast, February 14, 1996, Vol II, No. 31)
KYRGYZ PRESIDENT EXPANDS POWERS. The official final returns from Kyrgyzstan's February 10 referendum showed a 96.5 percent turnout and a 95 percent yes vote to approve constitutional amendments vastly expanding the powers of the Kyrgyz presidency. President Askar Akayev will henceforth have the power to personally formulate domestic and foreign policy, coordinate the functioning of the branches of government, and directly appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and judges without consulting the Kyrgyz parliament. The parliament retains the right to approve the president's choice of prime minister, supreme court justices, the prosecutor general, and the chairman of the national bank. The president may dissolve parliament if it fails three times to approve a presidential nominee. In campaigning for the changes, Akayev presented the expansion of his powers as necessary in order to accelerate economic, political, and legal reforms and to rein in regional and clan influences in the Kyrgyz government. (13)