Kyrgyzstan holds vote to change constitution

Kyrgyzstan has held a referendum on implementing changes to the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation's constitution, including amendments to strengthen the office of prime minister.

With almost 100 percent of ballots counted, 79.6 percent of voters supported the changes, Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission said Sunday. Turnout was 42 percent, according to election officials.

President Almazbek Atambayev's critics have claimed the result could allow him to move into the prime minister's seat, while retaining much of his power, after his current term as president ends next year. Atambayev denies such intentions.

The new amendments will allow the prime minister to appoint and dismiss Cabinet ministers and regional governors without consulting the president. The prime minister will also have a decisive say in shaping the government budget.