BISHKEK Kyrgyzstan has voted in favour of constitutional changes boosting the power of its government, the Central Election Commission said on Sunday, citing preliminary results of a national referendum.
The commission said that with most ballots counted in the Central Asian nation of six million, about 80 percent of voters had supported the package of constitutional amendments proposed by allies of President Almazbek Atambayev.
Voter turnout was about 42 percent.
The amendments include provisions granting more powers to the prime minister and the government, which is dominated by members of Atambayev's Social Democratic party.
Some of Atambayev's critics have accused him of planning to become prime minister himself after stepping down as president when his term ends next year. Atambayev, 60, has denied having such plans.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe said in a joint comment in August that the proposed amendments would shift the balance of power by strengthening the executive at the expense of parliament and the judiciary.
In the same comment, the two institutions said that other amendments could weaken the former Soviet republic's commitment to international treaties on human rights and freedoms.
Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished and mostly Muslim nation, has been volatile in recent years and was the scene of violent protests in 2005 and 2010 which toppled successive presidents.
Atambayev's move to amend the constitution adopted after the 2010 protests has alienated some of his former allies. If the conflict between him and opposition deepens after the vote, it could destabilise the country, which hosts a Russian military base.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Tom Heneghan)