Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev yesterday angrily rejected an overnight move by opposition lawmakers to pass a new constitution, calling the vote an illegal attempt to seize power.
His statement followed five days of anti-government rallies and an extraordinary late-night session of parliament, in which 38 opposition deputies signed the new constitution that would curtail the powers of the president.
"Some lawmakers tried to usurp power last night," Bakiyev said during a news conference. "Without getting a quorum, in the still of the night and secretly from the people they went ahead, ignoring the Constitution and the law."
A quorum is considered to be constituted of 51 lawmakers.
However, the opposition claims that the 38 signatures were enough to pass the draft constitution because they represent a majority of the 75-seat legislature.
It was the latest challenge to Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan's deepest political crisis since the March 2005 uprising that brought the leadership to power on pledges of political reform.
The opposition says Bakiyev has not delivered on those promises.
The forces arrayed against the president "have chosen the way of radical actions," aimed at provoking "a political crisis in the country," the government said in a statement.
Meanwhile, about 3,000 protesters resumed the opposition rally in Bishkek's central square. About 100 small tents and 15 larger yurts, like those traditionally used by nomads, were set up.
Lawmaker Omurbek Babanov said that he and other individuals in the opposition were the nation's legal authority and that they would "do anything to avoid a bloodbath."