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Kyrgyzstan parliament approves referendum on new constitution

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view of Kyrgyzstan's parliament

Kyrgyzstan's parliament has approved a referendum on a draft constitution that would empower the presidency and allow the country's incumbent leaders to re-run for office.

The parliament voted on Thursday to put the constitutional changes to a referendum on April 11. Only six out of the 100 Kyrgyz lawmakers present voted against it.

The proposed constitutional amendments discard the single presidential term limit introduced in 2010 and would return cabinet-forming powers to the president.

Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Japarov on January 10 won a landslide victory in Kyrgyzstan's snap presidential election, which had been triggered by the collapse of the previous government.

Violent anti-government protests that erupted last October had sprung Japarov from jail to the prime minister's chair and culminated in him assuming the interim presidency before he ran for the full role.

Japarov has been pushing for a switch to a presidential form of government, which would grant the president more legislative and executive powers.

The president is widely viewed as the architect behind the changes and is expected to sign off on the referendum law.

Critics have, however, likened the reforms to a power grab and said fresh parliamentary elections should have been held instead of extending the mandate of the old legislature.

Japarov has said he expects parliamentary elections to be held this autumn, a year behind schedule.

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country of 6.5 million people with a history of political instability. Over the past years, it has seen the violent overthrow of two presidents, one in 2005 and the other in 2010.

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