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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 1,737 1,632 1,500 145
GNI per capita
 US $ 330 290 280 178
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Kyrgyzstan

Update No: 322 - (26/10/07)

Referendum boosts the government
Kyrgyzstan voted on a set of constitutional amendments on October 21 in a referendum which has already led to snap parliamentary polls that will boost President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's grasp on power in the Central Asian state.

Kyrgyzstan, home to a U.S. and a Russian military base, has been unstable since 2005 when mass protests ousted veteran leader Askar Akayev and brought Bakiyev to power. Ever since, Bakiyev has been at loggerheads with parliament, which is packed with his opponents, elected under Akayev's rule.

Revolution to be completed
"If the referendum passes, Bakiyev will be able to gain substantial powers over the parliament and government," Eurasia Daily Monitor, published by the Washington-based think tank, the Jamestown Foundation, wrote in a note.

The changes strengthen Bakiyev's authority in picking the prime minister and cabinet members and dissolving parliament. Analysts expect Bakiyev to call early elections as soon as December, though he has not said whether he will do so.

The amendments also change the election process from a single-constituency system to a proportional all-party list, which should help Bakiyev gain a power base in the chamber through his newly formed Ak Zhol party.

Bakiyev, elected in 2005 a vote judged free and fair by Western monitors, is seen as a relative liberal in Central Asia, but his moves to consolidate power echo those of other ex-Soviet leaders who have tightened their grip on power in recent years.

In neighbouring Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev is head of a party, which controls all seats in the lower house. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin plans to head the pro-Kremlin party's list in a December parliamentary election.

Politicians say a tougher approach by Bakiyev, accused of not being aggressive enough to end infighting and focus on urgent matters such as poverty, would help ease tensions. "Some see authoritarian tendencies in the constitution. But it is still a step forward," said Melis Yeshimkanov, a deputy. "The foundation has been laid. It will be parties and ideas, not clans or business groups, who will be fighting for seats."

But some were sceptical in a country where public discontent has been brewing because of rising food prices and crime. A turnout below 50 percent was to render the referendum invalid. It was narrowly reached.

New political party
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on October 15 announced the creation of a new political party -- the Best Path Popular Party (Ak Jol Eldik Partiyasi).

President Bakiyev vowed in September that he would help form a new political party. But he also said that he wanted the new party to win a majority of seats in parliament -- something that has not happened since Kyrgyzstan gained independence in 1991.

"You know, we have many various parties, more than 100, but what kind of parties are these?" Bakiyev asked. "Among them there are few that are willing to assume responsibility for the affairs of the country. In the best cases, they simply criticize the authorities for their mistakes. But who will, who should, take care of affairs? Which political forces [or] political parties have done real work, have made progress toward those goals that stand before the country? Up until today, there haven't been any." 

On October 16, a day after Bakiyev was elected party chairman, he suspended his activities as leader of the Best Path Popular Party, saying that as president he could not participate in party politics. But his goal remains seeing the party dominate parliament.

The Best Path Popular Party became the 102nd registered political party or movement in Kyrgyzstan. About half of those groups are no longer active, and many of the remaining parties and movements have just a handful of members. Few can claim more than 10,000 members in a country of more than 5 million. 

A Ruling Party? 
If the Best Path Popular Party achieves an outright majority in parliament, it would be a first. But that might not be cause for celebration. 

Kyrgyzstan's Central Asian neighbours all have ruling parties. Through more than 16 years of independence, it is Kyrgyzstan that has been widely viewed as the most democratic in the region, (or the least tyrannical) -- as well as the country that most respects human rights and basic freedoms. 
In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's Nur-Otan party claimed every seat in the lower house of parliament in elections this year. 

In Tajikistan, the People's Democratic Party of President Emomali Rahmon controls more than 90 percent of the seats in parliament. 

Turkmenistan has a single registered political party, the Democratic Party, which is headed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. 

In Uzbekistan, there are effectively five ruling parties -- the People's Democratic Party, the Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrificers) Party, the Adolat Social Democratic Party, the Liberal-Democratic Party, and the Milli Tiklanish (National Renaissance) party -- all of which steadfastly support President Islam Karimov. 

If the new Kyrgyz party wins a majority in parliament, many will question whether the country is better off with what could be a rubberstamp parliament that would legitimize any decision by Bakiyev.

That is especially relevant since Kyrgyz voters are being asked to approve a new constitution that alters the balance of power among branches of government. Referendums in the 1990s and in 2003 consolidated power into the hands of the presidency. Now, with the legislative branch set to receive a greater voice in the affairs of government, parliament could be packed with members of the party that the president created. 

Negotiations Begin
Kyrgyzstan's opposition is aware of that possibility, and some groups are already working to join forces ahead of the elections to compete against the Best Path Popular Party. 

But among the pro-presidential parties, some members are ready to join Bakiyev's new group, as Akmatbek Keldibekov, a lawmaker from the pro-presidential Atajurt (Fatherland), told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "The negotiations and consultations are going on. Now, because the president has established a party, I suppose, we, the four or five lawmakers from the Atajurt party who have supported the president's policies, will join the Best Path Popular Party and we will continue to support presidential policy," Keldibekov said.

But there are also signs that some of the more established parties will work hard to maintain their hard-won identities -- and instead see the elections as a chance to consolidate their own positions.
Edil Baisalov, executive secretary of Prime Minister Almaz Atambaev's Social Democratic Party, said that his party would not join with any other bloc, and would even avoid any association with certain politicians.

"We, the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, are ready for elections even now. There are people whom we would like to invite into the party. However, we will not merge with those parties that consist of formerly or currently corrupt people, pro-governmental people, [or] those who would use state power to pursue their personal interests," Baisalov said.





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