November 9, 2016 / 4:38 PM / in a year

Kyrgyz president's party keeps grip on government amid constitution dispute

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev’s party retained its dominant cabinet position on Wednesday when the Central Asian nation’s parliament approved a new government following a shake-up prompted by disagreement over proposed constitutional reform.

Atambayev and his Social Democratic party had fallen out with previous allies after they refused to support a proposed constitutional reform strengthening the prime minister’s powers.

Atambayev’s opponents say the planned changes, put up for a national referendum on Dec.11, are aimed at letting him become a powerful cabinet head after stepping down as president next year. Atambayev has denied such plans.

Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a Social Democrat, is set to remain prime minister. Fifteen out of 20 members of the previous cabinet retained their posts, while five new appointees mostly representing the Kyrgyzstan and Bir Bol parties entered the Social Democrats’ new coalition.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Muslim-majority former Soviet republic of 6 million people in Central Asia, has been volatile in recent years and was the scene of violent protests in 2005 and 2010 which toppled successive presidents.

Atambayev, 60, who took office in 2011, has brought his country closer into Moscow’s political orbit, but Kyrgyzstan’s reliance on Russian investments and migrant worker remittances backfired when oil prices plunged and Russia’s economy went into recession.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Ralph Boulton

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