Kyrgyzstan's new constitution, approved in a recent nationwide referendum, strengthens the decision-making powers of local representative bodies. Officials in Bishkek hope that the move to expand local authority will help reduce social tension in the country. However, there is a risk that the new arrangement could deepen the political and economic divide that separates Kyrgyzstan's northern and southern regions.
According to official figures, voters approved the new constitution by a three-quarters majority in the February 2 referendum. Opposition leaders are disputing the results, alleging that turnout figures were manipulated in order to ensure the referendum's validity. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The results in theory provide President Askar Akayev with political leverage in the ongoing power struggle with his opponents. [For additional information see the EurasiaNet's Opposition Reports]. In a February 10 speech, Akayev sounded a conciliatory note. "I am confident that 2003
Alisher Khamidov is a Muskie Fellow at Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University.