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Kyrgyzstan constitution gets nod in vote only weeks after violence

[ 2010-06-29 13:36]     字号 [] [] []  
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Barely two weeks after ethnic purges left many minority Uzbek communities in smoldering ruins, about two-thirds of Kyrgyzstan's voters went to the polls on Sunday to peacefully and overwhelmingly approve a new constitution they hoped would bring stability to the Central Asian nation.

Kyrgyzstan's interim government had pressed on with the vote even though many of the 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks forced to flee have yet to return to their homes and neighborhoods.

The result gave legitimacy to the provisional government backed by most Uzbeks, though some of those displaced by violence were unable to vote on Sunday.

The vote - supported by the UN, the United States and Russia - is seen as an important step on the road to democracy for the interim government, which came to power after former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in April following deadly street protests.

Interim President Roza Otunbayeva said she now would be inaugurated as a caretaker president and form her government.

Its members will form a lawmaking assembly, which will pass the necessary legislation until parliamentary elections in October.

"It will not be an interim but a legal and legitimate government," Otunbayeva said. "We are leaving the word interim behind."

With over 70 percent of all precincts counted, the Central Election Commission said more than 90 percent of those who cast ballots voted for the new constitution and just about 8 percent voted against it. Some 2.7 million people were eligible to vote, and turnout was nearly 70 percent, it said.

Rampages by ethnic-majority Kyrgyz mobs in southern Kyrgyzstan this month killed as many as 2,000 people and forced 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks to flee.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had 25 observers monitoring the vote but none in Osh or Jalal-Abad - the cities where the violence was centered - because it still considered them too dangerous.

Activists and journalists in the south, however, saw no signs of election-day violence. Otunbayeva and other officials also said the vote took place without incident.

Dinara Oshurakhunova, who heads a democracy rights group monitoring Sunday's vote, said despite the tensions in Osh, different ethnic groups voted in mixed neighborhoods.

"Most people here don't even understand what they are voting for, they don't understand what the issue is," Oshurakhunova said. "For them, taking part is simply an opportunity to stabilize the situation."

Khulkarpasha Sabirova, deputy head of the Uzbek community in Kyrgyzstan, said Uzbeks actively supported the referendum.

"We hope that our vote will bring stability and will prevent a repetition of the terrible events that took place," Sabirova said. "We hope that the new government will address the people's needs and that it will give its support to all ethnic groups."

The government changed voting rules on Friday so minority Uzbeks who had fled the violence but had no identity documents on them could still vote.

Voters without identification could cast a ballot if at least two election officials could confirm they lived in the area.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Kyrgyzstan constitution gets nod in vote only weeks after violence

Kyrgyzstan constitution gets nod in vote only weeks after violence

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China daily for one year.