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BISHKEK -Voters in Kyrgyzstan are likely to support handing greater powers to the presidency in a referendum on Sunday, given high public trust in populist head of state Sadyr Japarov.
The constitutional reform will make the political system of the Central Asian nation similar to that of its ex-Soviet neighbours, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, making it easier for Japarov to push through his policies.
Japarov and his supporters also hope a strengthened presidency would make the country more stable after violent revolts toppled its leaders in 2005, 2010 and in 2020, when Japarov was catapulted from a prison cell and into office.
"I urge all citizens to actively take part in the referendum," Japarov said as he cast his ballot at a polling station in capital Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan borders China and is closely allied with Russia.
A poll commissioned by the United States-based International Republican Institute and published this month found Japarov was by far the most trusted politician in the country.
The percentage of voters who believed Kyrgyzstan was headed in the right direction jumped from 41% last August - when Japarov's predecessor Sooronbai Jeenbekov was in charge - to 70% in February and March, the poll data showed.
Preliminary results of the vote are expected to be announced late on Sunday.
Japarov proposed the reform after coming to power amid violent protests last October triggered by the announcement of pro-Jeenbekov parties' landslide victory in a parliamentary election.
A former member of parliament and senior official, Japarov had been serving a prison term for his role in the kidnapping of a regional governor as part of a political protest. His sentence has since been overturned.
In contrast to its neighbours, when Kyrgyzstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it adopted a political system whereby both parliament and the presidency wielded significant powers, forcing its leaders to seek the backing of broader elites.
"I voted against (the reform) because this is a power grab," said a 32-year-old entrepreneur who only gave his first name, Bakyt. "All the power must not be given to one person." REUTERS