BISHKEK, (Kyrgyzstan): Voters in Kyrgyzstan granted sweeping powers to President Sadyr Japarov on Sunday in a constitutional referendum that will also allow him to run for re-election, preliminary results showed.
Japarov, a 52-year-old populist, has brushed aside political opponents since coming to power on the back of a political crisis last October in the poor Central Asian country.
A disputed parliamentary vote saw Japarov's predecessor, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, become the third Kyrgyz president to resign during a political crisis since the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as Japarov won backing to lead from the political elite.
His release from jail by supporters was the spark for a dizzying rise to the leadership. He always described his conviction for hostage-taking -- which has since been overturned -- as politically motivated.
On Sunday, with nearly all ballots counted, the constitutional changes were on course to pass with 79 percent in favour.
Turnout was low but at nearly 37 percent crossed the 30 percent barrier required for the referendum's results to stand, the Central Election Commission said.
Japarov had already confirmed his dominance over domestic politics in January, when he won the presidency in a landslide.
The president had appealed to voters to back the constitutional changes, claiming that previous revisions had been imported from abroad.
"This time we prepared the basic law ourselves," Japarov said as he cast his ballot at a polling station in the capital Bishkek. The result promises a presidency more in line with Kyrgyzstan's neighbours, with the office gaining new powers of appointment at the expense of parliament and the head of cabinet, ending a decade-long experiment with a mixed system.
Adis Asanov, a 65-year-old pensioner, told an AFP correspondent in Bishkek that he had voted for the new constitution because of his disappointment with parliament's lawmakers who had "bought their seats and lobbied their own corrupt interests".