BISHKEK. Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry today disagreed with U.S. criticisms of a constitutional referendum this Sunday. The United States and several international organizations say the referendum falls short of international norms and could weaken civil society in Kyrgyzstan.
The referendum will take place on February 2, 2003, twenty days after the date was announced. The opposition contends it is an attempt by President Askar Akayev to obtain more power.
But the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry today distributed a press release saying the opposite is true, because the proposed constitution will move the country toward a "presidential-parliamentary form of governance."
The Ministry said the proposed constitution reflects the opinions of various political groups and society, and that human rights and freedoms are priorities. State Secretary, Osmonakun Ibraimov also joined the Ministry's disapproval of the U.S. criticism urging the U.S. Government to understand priorities of the Kyrgyz Government.
Sulaiman Imanbaev, head of the Central Electoral Commission, responding today to the U.S. criticism on the Kyrgyz referendum's short timing, said:
'It is not for anybody else to decide when we should have a debate or hold a referendum. It is the right of the president of a sovereign state to set a date for a referendum and it is the right of the people to have a debate. It is our internal political matter.'
In the meantime, a leader of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, Edil Baisalov, rejected today's accusations made by the head of the CEC Imanbaev, that the NGOs are receiving money from abroad to pay the observers for their job during the referendum. Baisalov said that it is not illegal to pay to the contributors' travel expenses during their independent observation.