The reelected president of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, yesterday called a referendum on amending the constitution to expand the presidency’s powers at the expense of parliament. In a televised address to the country, Akayev complained that the constitution "reduces the president to the role of a Queen of England," and that parliament was slow and ineffective in taking decisions and was "just playing political games." Akayev proposed constitutional amendments enabling the president to name his own cabinet and personally direct domestic and foreign policies. Accusing the parliament of hindering reforms, Akayev described the enlargement of presidential powers as necessary for accelerating the transition to the market economy and political democratization. He declared himself ready to assume personal responsibility for the fate of reforms. The referendum is scheduled for February 10 and has every chance of turning out successful for Akayev. (21)
Akayev was reelected president December 24 by a landslide against two opponents, after three others had been disqualified from the race; all five charged massive fraud. The only prominent state official among them, Deputy Prime Minister Jumgalbek Amanbayev, was dismissed by the president after the election. Nevertheless Akayev’s reelection is a plus for stability and reforms because all of his rivals were either communists of various shades or identified with divisive regional interests, or carried both of these drawbacks. Akayev’s bid to expand his powers follows the model set by the presidents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (with Turkmenistan representing a more extreme version of the same model).