Kyrgyz polling stations open for referendum on new Constitution
Polling stations opened on Sunday in Kyrgyzstan, allowing citizens to vote on a new Constitution and support or reject the interim government, a spokeswoman for the country's Central Election Commission said, RIA Novosti reported.
A total of 2.7 million Kyrgyz citizens eligible for voting have an opportunity to vote to curtail the president's powers and convert Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary republic.
Voters will also be asked to endorse interim Prime Minister Roza Otunbayeva as president until December 31, 2011. She will not be entitled to run for president in the October 2011 elections.
The polls are taking place despite recent inter-ethnic clashes in the republic. The riots, which began in the country's southern city of Osh on June 11 and spread to nearby Jalalabad region, have claimed the lives of more than 270 people, according to official estimates. Kyrgyz officials acknowledge that the real death toll may be ten times higher.
The Kyrgyz authorities allowed citizens to vote from wherever they were on the day of the referendum, taking into consideration the huge number of displaced people in the country following the unrest.
Otunbayeva arrived on Saturday in Osh, where several thousand buildings were damaged or destroyed during the riots, to take part in the referendum. The interim government, which has been criticized for insufficient efforts taken to quench the unrest, is now struggling to improve its authority.
A total of 189 observers from 18 international organizations, including the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, will monitor the polls, the Central Election Commission's spokeswoman said.
Kyrgyzstan will become a parliamentary republic if half of the voters plus one support the government's proposal.
The interim government came to power in Kyrgyzstan amid April's large-scale opposition protests, which overthrew president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The ousted Kyrgyz leader has fled the country and taken refuge in Belarus.
A total of 2,281 polling stations will be open across Kyrgyzstan on Sunday, and 38 more will wait for for Kyrgyz citizens abroad. Around 7.5 thousand police officers and the same number of voluntary helpers are deployed to ensure security during the vote.