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New Kyrgyz Constitution Offers Hope For Democratic Reform

(Washington, D.C.--November 17, 2006) The 2005 "Tulip Revolution" in Kyrgyzstan has been strengthened by a new constitution adopted after several days of demonstrations in early November. These events offer signs of hope that -- after years of dictatorial rule -- the future may point towards the emergence of a functioning democracy in the country. That was the message of two RFE/RL experts on Kyrgyzstan, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev and Daniel Kimmage, who spoke at a briefing in RFE/RL's Washington offices on November 9, the morning after the new constitution was approved by the Kyrgyz parliament.

Tchoroev, the Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, said that the adoption of a new constitution, which should also keep both the government of Prime Minister Feliks Kulov and the current parliament in place until the term in office of President Kurmanbek Bakiev runs out in 2010, is a long-term victory for Kyrgyz democracy. The agreement reflects a compromise by the opposition "For Reforms" movement that, according to Tchoroev, was made in order to avoid an escalation of violence between the government and the opposition. Tchoroev also said that NGO leaders had praised the agreement, because it shows that, in Central Asia, compromise can contribute to a peaceful, pro-democratic resolution.

Kimmage, RFE/RL's Central Asia Regional Analyst, said that the "political upheaval" in Kyrgyzstan resulted from a conflict between different factions within the domestic elite that the factions could not resolve among themselves. As a result, Kimmage said, they took their conflict into the realm of public politics by mobilizing people in the streets.

The agreement over Kyrgyzstan's new constitution, Kimmage said, offers some grounds for hope that a spirit of compromise will inform efforts to resolve intra-elite conflicts. Kimmage questioned, however, the new constitution's ability to maintain long-term stability in Kyrgyzstan, concluding that the adoption of a new constitution will only aid Kyrgyzstan's domestic reform efforts if it is accompanied by a shift from government based on theft to governance based on the common good.

Archived audio of this briefing can be heard in RealAudio and Windows Media formats.