Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Government Coalition Breaks Over Constitutional Referendum

Recent Features

Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyz Government Coalition Breaks Over Constitutional Referendum

The president’s party, SDPK, cited “irreconcilable political views” as its reason for withdrawing from the coalition.

Kyrgyz Government Coalition Breaks Over Constitutional Referendum
Credit: Catherine Putz

Kyrgyzstan’s dominant political party — the Social Democratic Party (SDPK) — said Monday in a statement that it was leaving the four-party ruling coalition established after last October’s legislative elections. The SDPK faction leader, Isa Omurkulov, referred to “irreconcilable political views” as the cause of the breakup.

SDPK’s statement went on to label the party’s “former partners” as sharing “common interests with Akayev and Bakiyev [the two presidents overthrown in 2005 and 2010].” The statement went as far as to accused the “former partners” (i.e. Onuguu-Progress and Ata-Meken) of following the instructions of the ousted presidents. The statement also alluded to accusations — coming largely from the president against his former interim government allies — of looting and other crimes in the post-2010 confusion.

But the real irreconcilable differences leading to the coalition’s divorce related to the controversial constitutional changes pushed for by the party’s former head, President Almazbek Atambayev. Onuguu-Progress and Ata-Meken have come out in opposition of the constitutional referendum now set for December 11 (a provision prohibiting amendments before 2020 be damned.)

Among the more than 30 proposed changes, in the draft examined by the Venice Commission, are the addition of “national values” which range from fairly standard “pursuit of happiness” to more troublesome “morality” and “careful attitude to history;” an expansion of the prime minister’s powers; the dropping of a key human rights clause, which enables Kyrgyz to seek international protection; and changes to how the Kyrgyz judicial branch operates.

Ata-Meken’s leadership has been particularly outspoken against the changes. Omurbek Tekebayev, the party’s leader, has categorized Atambayev’s constitutional reform push as a distraction from the country’s economic woes and has rallied public gatherings against the referendum.

Tekebayev also criticized the government for losing the original constitution document, saying, “I do not know where the original of the Constitution may be. I can not know. We should ask this question in the Presidential Administration. How can it be that the most important document of the country is lost? Let the Prosecutor General’s Office ask.”

The SDPK is the country’s dominant party but did not secure enough seats in the October 2015 election to take majority. Without the party, and its 38 seats however, the coalition government has had to officially resign. Technically Atambayev has three days to ask a party to form a coalition government. Without a doubt he’ll assign that task to SDPK.

A new coalition is on its way, according to parliamentary sources speaking to, which will see SDPK keep the Kyrgyzstan party (18 seats) and bring Respublika-Ata Jurt (28 seats) back into the government. This will leave Onuguu-Progress (13 seats ), Ata-Meken (11 seats), and Bir Bol (12 seats) in the opposition.

That Ata-Meken is at the center of the new opposition is no surprise. In summer 2015, Atambayev said Tekebayev had “one foot in government, one in opposition.” As Reuters notes, Tekebayev (along with Atambayev) has been among the leaders both Kyrgyz revolutions.

Political tension in Kyrgyzstan is headed for a boiling point. For a country that has twice risen up against leaders perceived as corrupt and domineering, there is potential here for real trouble. There seems to be little space for compromise: one side says constitutional changes are necessary and the other that they are illegal.