[Newsletter] Kyrgyzstan backs change to constitution in referendum
This is a copy of our newsletter dated 12 April 2021. Sign up here to receive it directly in your inbox every Monday.
This newsletter is dedicated to post-Soviet Central Asia. Each week, we let you know the latest from the region.
In the news
Hello from Novastan! This week we’re looking at a constitutional referendum in Kyrgyzstan and, in the same country, the murder of the 27-year-old Aizada Kanatbekova sparking protests. Plus more from Uzbekistan and, as usual, our Covid-19 round up. Please note the links about the tragic case of Aizada Kanatbekova below contain descriptions of violence which may be distressing to readers.
A new Kyrgyz constitution, proposed by referendum, was approved by 79.3% of voters (ENG) according to preliminary results. Turnout was low with 35.9% of registered voters casting a ballot. The minimum turnout for the referendum to be valid was 30%.
Critics say the new constitution gives too much power to the president and, in the words (ENG) of the European Union’s Venice Commission, “creates a real risk of undermining the separation of powers and the rule of law in the Kyrgyz Republic”. For the president and the constitution’s supporters, however, the change is necessary to establish order and bring stability to the country. Last month we described the proposed changes in more detail (ENG).
The referendum was held the same day as local elections. According to preliminary results, six parties have earned enough votes (RU) to join Bishkek’s city council, with Emgek (“Labour” in Kyrgyz) coming first with nearly 14%. As Eurasianet notes (ENG), Emgek includes former MPs once close to those in power, for instance Janybek Abirov, a friend of former president Almazbek Atambaev.
Also in Kyrgyzstan, the murder of Aizada Kanatbekova, who, according to preliminary investigation, was strangled by her abductor, has led to widespread anger and calls for the resignation of police leaders. The outrage is directed in part at the police because of their failure to find Kanatbekova or her suspected abductor despite the kidnapping being caught on camera. RFE/RL reports (ENG) that Bishkek’s police chief was dismissed on 10 April alongside other senior officers over their handling of the case.
The European Union has officially added Uzbekistan to the list of countries benefiting from its Generalised System of Advanced Preferences (GSP +). 6,200 Uzbek products will have access to the European market (ENG) without customs duties.
Last week, we mentioned the electrification of the railway line connecting the Uzbek cities of Bekobod and Qo’qon (Kokand). Our article on the subject is now available in English.
Covid-19 in Central Asia
As of 12 April 2021, there have officially been 460,603 cases, 5,488 deaths et 416,854 recoveries. In more detail:
– Kazakhstan: 271,809 cases, 3,236 deaths, 234,665 recoveries
– Kyrgyzstan: 90,372 cases, 1,528 deaths, 86,028 recoveries
– Uzbekistan: 85,114 cases, 634 deaths, 82,943 recoveries
– Tajikistan: 13,308 cases, 90 deaths, 13,218 recovered (no new cases according to official figures)
– Turkmenistan: 0 cases, 0 deaths, 0 recovered (no cases according to official figures)
Kazakhstan‘s health minister Alexey Tsoi said on 12 April that infections were three times higher in April than in March, the Kazakh outlet Tengrinews reports (RU). Tsoi also noted that 61% of new infections were in Nur-Sultan, Almaty and the Almaty region.
Despite not officially registering any cases, Turkmenistan is experiencing a “fourth wave of coronavirus”, Azatlyk, RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, reported (RU) on 9 April. Still according to Azatlyk (RU), the country has started vaccinating teachers in Ashgabat, the capital.
Our photo of the week
Siblings on horseback in Kyrgyzstan, by Mareike Müller. Click on the picture for more information.
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