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Kyrgyzstan constitution takes effect after referendum results confirmed

Kyrgyzstan's new constitution [text, DOC; in Russian] came into effect on Thursday after election authorities released the final results of Sunday's referendum on the charter [JURIST report]. The new constitution will allow the interim government to establish a legitimate government through parliamentary elections in the fall. Final results from the referendum showed that the new constitution was adopted by 90.55 percent of the Kyrgyz voters, according to local news reports [Kabar report, in Russian]. Under the new constitution, parliamentary elections will be held every five years, while presidential elections will be held every six years. The office of president will be limited to one six-year term. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva [BBC profile] will continue to lead the country until presidential elections in 2012. The constitution, approved by the interim government [JURIST report] in May, shifts power from the president to the prime minister, defines Kyrgyzstan as a secular state and increases the number of seats in parliament from 90 to 120.

The government of Kyrgyzstan chose to proceed with the elections [JURIST report] despite ongoing ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder] against the Kyrgyz Uzbek population. Last month, Otunbayeva issued shoot to kill orders [JURIST report] to the nation's military after the reservists were activated and sent to quell the ethnic conflict that has been primarily focused in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal'abad. The cause of the violence is unclear, but UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay [official website] and witnesses have described it as organized. One suggested motivation for the violence was to cause a delay of the referendum by allies of ousted Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile]. The interim government has accused the former president's son of paying USD $10 million to finance the violence. He was arrested in the UK earlier this month, and the interim government has promised to seek his extradition. Despite the ongoing violence, voter turnout for the referendum was reported to be about 65 percent.

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