Kyrgyzstan’s Assembly of People’s Representatives (parliament) yesterday began deliberations on President Askar Akaev’s recent proposals to change the country’s constitution. The proposals envisage a substantial increase of presidential powers and a corresponding reduction of the parliament’s powers, even depriving deputies of parliamentary immunity for the ostensible purpose of combating official corruption. Akaev, furthermore, proposes to introduce private ownership of land, coupled with a five-year moratorium on the free sale and purchase of land. The president plans to put these proposals to a national referendum later this month as a means to circumvent the parliament. At the same time, Akaev seeks a third presidential term under a controversial interpretation of the constitution.
A large part of the parliament resists the president’s proposals. Seven political parties and movements have formed an alliance to oppose both the extension of presidential powers and the agrarian reform. The alliance includes the country’s large communist party but also some genuine civic groups. Opposing the abolition of parliamentary immunity, these groups argue that not a single executive branch official has been prosecuted for corruption. Their argument against agrarian reform holds that foreign capital and internal corrupt elements will be able to purchase land cheaply from impoverished peasants. The opposition alliance also demands the dismissal of the cabinet of ministers and the formation of a “government of national trust.”
The opposition alliance has endorsed a demand by Russian and “Russian-speaking” groups to confer official status on the Russian language, alongside the Kyrgyz. Opposition leaders openly acknowledge that the concession is designed to win the support of local Russians, who normally tend to support Akaev.
The authorities banned a mass protest rally that the opposition had planned to hold in the southern city of Jalalabad last weekend. Three of the organizers, including the Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Committee’s regional branch chief, were arrested and sentenced to 15-day administrative detention terms. Amnesty International is mounting a campaign in their behalf (Russian agencies, M2 Communications, September 29 and 30).–VS
PRESIDENT NAZARBAEV PROPOSES DEMOCRATIZATION.