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Kyrgyzstan votes on constitution boosting president’s powers

MOSCOW (AP) — Voters in Kyrgyzstan will cast ballots Sunday on whether to approve a new constitution that would substantially increase the president’s powers in this impoverished Central Asian nation.

The referendum comes three months after Sadyr Zhaparov was elected president, following the ouster of the previous president amid protests, the third time in 15 years that a leader of Kyrgyzstan had been driven from office in a popular uprising.

In the January election that brought Zhaparov to office, voters also approved a referendum on whether presidential powers should be increased.

The proposed new constitution would reduce the size of the country’s parliament by 25% to 90 seats and give the president the power to appoint judges and heads of law-enforcement agencies. It also calls for creating an advisory council that critics say could essentially become a shadow parliament or an instrument for the president to exert pressure.

Zhaparov last year was serving a prison sentence on charges of abducting a regional governor amid a dispute over a gold mine when he was freed by demonstrators who contested the results of the October parliamentary election.

Immediately after his release, Zhaparov mobilized stone-hurling supporters to evict President Sooronbai Jeenbekov from office and then took the helm as the nation’s interim leader.

Kyrgyzstan, a nation of 6.5 million people that borders China, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances. It hosts a Russian air base and depends on Moscow’s economic support.

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