Day of silence for Kyrgyzstan as country prepares to cast ballots

Kyrgyzstan is to decide on the country’s future in a constitutional referendum scheduled for June 27. The referendum comes following weeks of bitter ethnic violence.

The country is fully prepared to hold the referendum, reports news agency Interfax referring to Bishkek’s electoral committee. More than 2000 voting stations have been set up throughout the country with 38 stations abroad. Almost three million ballots have been printed. Approximately 200 international watchdogs will be monitoring the process. Eight thousand police officers along with 7,500 thousand volunteers will ensure security.

In a Yes/No vote, the Kyrgyz are to speak out on crucial issues. Among them is a new Constitution, which curtails the president’s power and makes Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary republic. Another point to vote on is investing the head of the interim government Roza Otunbayeva with presidential authority until the election in December, 2011.

The leader of the interim government says the country needs a legal framework to help stabilize the country.

Meanwhile, reports are coming in that the situation in the country is stabilizing. Authorities have lifted the state of emergency in the south of the country, the site of recent violence. According to the interim government, over 70,000 refugees, who fled because of ethnic clashes, have returned to the city of Osh. However, according to the city’s mayor, even though the situation is slowly stabilizing, extremist groups are still operating in Osh.

Official figures put the number of people killed in the recent fighting between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks at slightly less than three hundred, although it is believed that number could be in the thousands.