Kyrgyzstan approves constitution boosting president’s power

MOSCOW — Kyrgyzstan’s national elections commission says voters have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that substantially increases the president’s powers.

The commission said results from 90% of the polling places showed 79% approval of the constitution in Sunday’s referendum.

The referendum came 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.

The new constitution reduces the size of the country’s parliament by 25% to 90 seats and gives 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.