By: Nick Mosher
On May 5th Kyrgyzstan’s President, Sadyr Japarov, approved troubling new constitutional amendments that will drastically increase the government’s ability to crack down on any opposition. These amendments were pushed forward by Kyrgyzstan’s caretaker parliament, which Human Rights Watch argues does not have the legitimacy required to initiate such changes: “The role of this outgoing parliament is not to rush in constitutional amendments, but to discharge essential governance functions in line with the rule of law until the will of the people is expressed in a free and fair election.”
Using vague and malleable language, the new amendments expand the label of “extremist group” and bolster the government’s ability to prosecute these groups. This action severely threatens political opposition as well as human rights organizations within the country. The amendments will also allow for the criminal prosecution of any individual who donates to organizations deemed to be extremist.
The Kyrgyz people approved these changes through a national referendum last month, reflecting a rise in nationalism across the country. This approval is likely due to a desire amongst the population for a stronger central government able to guarantee security within its borders after experiencing three popular uprisings resulting in the ousting of three presidents since 2005.
President Japarov is closely tied to the rise of nationalism in Kyrgyzstan. Japarov and his nationalist party, Ata-Jurt (Homeland), first found success in 2010 by winning seats in parliament after taking advantage of the ethnic clashes leading up to the elections that year. Japarov would later be convicted of kidnapping after leading a protest for the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine.
President Japarov has already taken advantage of the vagueness of the current penal code to jail dissidents for speaking out against the new regime. In addition to the new amendments, in the coming weeks Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government will be releasing a draft for a renewal of the country’s entire criminal code, which many believe will reinforce the strength of the central government. With President Japarov consolidating his newfound power, the rise of nationalism in Kyrgyzstan seems well under way.