WASHINGTON—Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today welcomed the peaceful conduct of Kyrgyzstan’s June 27 constitutional referendum and called for increased international assistance to the country to stabilize the situation.
“High voter turnout clearly shows that the citizens of Kyrgyzstan are determined to use their democratic voice, despite the recent violence in the southern part of the country,” Commission Chairman U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) said. “The referendum legitimizes the caretaker government; it must now build confidence with the minority ethnic Uzbek community, as well as overcome the legacy of corruption left by the previous regime. The international community must do all it can to assist in stabilizing the situation. In this regard, I welcome the almost $50 million which the United States plans to provide.”
The referendum changes the Kyrgyz constitution to give more power to the parliament in order to curb authoritarian rule following the ouster of former President Bakiev, who was widely seen as corrupt and nepotistic. It was held despite recent ethnic violence that left hundreds dead and some 400,000 displaced. Kyrgyzstan hosts the Manas Transit Center, which supports U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
“Kyrgyzstan will be the only country in the region to shift the balance of power to its parliament,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “Its best chance of success will be to strengthen its democratic institutions and rule of law, including independent media and judiciary, political parties, and civil society, as well as combating corruption. The OSCE should play a key role in this, as well as assisting in building confidence with the minority Uzbek community. I urge the OSCE to begin immediately collecting information from victims of the recent violence, and to deploy civilian police monitors as soon as possible.
“We also must address some of the underlying issues that fed the recent ethnic violence,” added Congressman Hastings. “Young people in Kyrgyzstan have few economic opportunities, and drugs and organized crime are serious problems.”
“Looking ahead, the government faces many challenges,” said Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA). “To begin with, it must bring to justice those who took part in the recent violence, and ensure that its military and police do not commit any abuses, such as those reported last week in Nariman. According to the OSCE, despite challenging circumstances, Kyrgyzstan's authorities succeeded in creating the necessary conditions for the conduct of a peaceful constitutional referendum. I am therefore optimistic that the caretaker government will build on this foundation to ensure that parliamentary elections planned for October are conducted in full accordance with international standards.”