BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan 

Voters in Kyrgyzstan headed to the polls on Sunday for a referendum envisaging radical change in the central Asian country’s constitution.

Over 3.6 million people started casting their votes into 2,474 ballot boxes at 8 a.m. local time (0200GMT) across seven regions and 26 provinces.

Nearly 200 observers and 179 domestic and foreign press members from 10 countries, 16 embassies and 10 international organizations are monitoring the voting process marked by strict health measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 30,000 candidates across the country, including 5,300 women, from 59 political parties are competing for a total of 7,560 parliamentary seats.

On one of the two ballots issued, voters will choose either “Yes” or “No” for the constitutional amendments, while the other will bear the party names, as well as an “Against all” option.

President Sadyr Japarov and his wife Aigul Japarova cast their ballots together after voting began.

“If our people support the draft constitution, we will start living according to the new constitution tomorrow,” Japarov told reporters, urging the public to vote.

*Writing by Gozde Bayar

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