The Common Cause Public Foundation conducted a sociological survey on the upcoming elections to the Jogorku Kenesh. Aida Suyundueva, Chairman of the Foundation's Board, and Elmira Nogoibaeva, political scientist, have discussed current political processes and the sentiments of Kyrgyzstanis prior to the parliamentary elections on air at Kaktus.media.
- Aida Jenishevna, what was the purpose of this survey?
- The Common Cause Foundation is currently conducting independent observation of the elections. One of the project's goals is to raise the awareness of citizens about the upcoming elections. Therefore, we planned a survey, which provides information on what people of Kyrgyzstan think about the upcoming elections, and allows to plan our civic education projects. At the moment, elections are the main political topic. We know what our immediate circle thinks about it, but we need to understand the attitude of the majority of Kyrgyzstanis to this topic.
The survey data helps to inform the election organizers of the fears that the population has. One of the main fears is safety. It seems to us that government agencies and other organizations that are engaged in informing citizens should do their best to ensure the safety of citizens.
Another important finding of the survey is that, despite all possible doubts, most voters still support the holding of elections, although some time ago there were serious disputes about the postponement.
Overall, we hope that this survey will help the organizers to recognize the issues that concern voters.
Voters' sentiments ahead of the elections
- Elmira Abylbekovna, how do you assess the public sentiments on the eve of the elections?
- Actually, there are a lot of new trends. Recent events show that civic engagement and solidarity have increased, and I am sure that this will be manifested in the elections. On the other hand, according to the survey, 30% of the population are sure that everything will be fine, but about 18% of the population is in a worried state. I think this percentage will increase further because we have recently experienced the peak of coronavirus infection. This situation has caused anxiety and is pushing people to take some responsibility for their choices. So there's also a message to the political parties. The election campaign is about to start, and the parties are taking various opportunities to promote themselves. Parties need to study the data of such studies to adequately assess the situation in Kyrgyzstan today.
Preference for candidates
- Aida Jenishevna, how do you think the attitude of citizens towards the composition of the Jogorku Kenesh has changed in the last five years?
- With regard to the composition of parliament, more research can and should be conducted, as well as the analysis of different situations, for example, involving organizations that analyze gender issues. We found that citizens now want to see more women and young people in Parliament. Citizens are putting forward literacy requirements for candidates in the first place. This is very important, this is food for thought for political parties, which are now forming lists of candidates. In order to meet the demand of the population, political parties must know who the citizens want to see in parliament. And they want to see more young, literate people among deputies. But at the same time, the preference that existed before as well is the candidates' eloquence. This is an important factor that affects the citizens' choice. We hope that the obtained data will be useful for the participants of the electoral process.
- Elmira Abylbekovna, what does this kind of demand for the composition of the Jogorku Kenesh indicate?
- If we look at previous polls, then people were interested in patriotism, justice, energy issues and much more. However, this year, according to a survey by the Common Cause Foundation, 96% of those surveyed request amount of education. It seems to me that this is an assessment of the current parliament's quality. People want to be sure that educated people will write and adopt laws in Kyrgyzstan. That is why there is a new, very rational criterion for candidates - amount of education and competence.
- What do voters think about the current situation in the country?
- According to the survey, 58% of respondents believe that the country is in crisis. This is a very worrisome trend. That's why 18% of respondents feel anxious. If one fifth of the population is worried, it also speaks volumes. We know that the coronavirus has exposed many problems in the country. If people used to talk about safety in political, geopolitical context, now they are concerned with personal physical safety first of all. This survey was conducted before June 24, and after that we experienced the peak of disease. The crisis and the economic consequences associated with it have caused great disappointment in the management functions of the state. People understand that their future depends on this political design, which will be formed by the results of the elections.
- Is it possible to draw any conclusions from the survey regarding the increase of the population's political activity?
- I wouldn't draw that conclusion. It follows from the survey that, first of all, voters are concerned with economic problems. A large percentage of young people do not participate in elections, and this is a consistent picture of every survey. The turnout will depend on how political parties can interest voters with their programs, lists of candidates, proposals for solving economic issues. But political parties are still forming these. The issue of citizens' participation in elections is important for our institution. We are interested to see how the figures change, so we will conduct a phone polling to see the willingness to participate in the elections. The more citizens participate in the election, the better it goes.
There're many parties, but there's not much choice
- Elmira Abylbekovna, what do you think will be the preference of the people of Kyrgyzstan?
- Today, the situation is paradoxical: a choice must be made, but there is no clear political proposal yet. It follows from the polls that part of the respondents do not know who to vote for. The second part cannot make up their mind. The third part thinks that they are likely to vote for the old parties. At the same time, it should be understood that the political market is still not structured. It is not clear what political parties are currently being nominated, the old parties have been rebranded, people are not aware of new parties. And the new parties are unable to show themselves brightly enough, because the election campaign will be only last a month. The voter, even having high activity, does not know who they want to vote for, it is very difficult for them to make their choice. This disorientation of the political market can play a negative role.
It is also important that the voter wants to know the religious affiliation of the candidates. Our society is shifting towards greater religiousness, and this becomes somewhat of a criterion. The next criterion is a request for women.
In the VI convocation there were some very active women, they came up with a lot of initiatives, the matters they were related to is a different issue. That is, there is a change in the preferences of voters, but as for preferences by ideological criteria, this is problematic. Ideological preferences are very vague, because the content of parties is not clear. For a long time, we were dominated by socialists. In any case, they were called that, but we saw from their rhetoric that they actually very often deviated from their position.
- If elections were held today, which candidates would voters cast their votes for?
- If we take into account that the elections will be held in just a month and a half, there is a small difference with today. Today it is not clear what political parties are there in Kyrgyzstan, because they merge, unite, appear and disappear. The market is still incomprehensible. If we speak about preferences in personalities, then people have a great fatigue from uneducated people. The situation with the coronavirus has shown us new faces, activists, and now political parties are actively including them in their ranks. But these new names, too, are not yet clear to most voters. It's hard to say five names among political leaders either. Those who were in the absolute favor two electoral cycles ago are not so popular today.
- Aida Jenishevna, what do you think of this?
Mergers and collaborations that are taking place on the eve of an election campaign can also make choices harder. In the regions, people say they would like to vote for certain people, for example, but they have merged with a party to which they have many grievances, so now they do not know who to vote for. Campaigning period is very limited, participants need to tell as much as possible about themselves, their composition, their program. It is very important for the parties to take this point into account.
- Elmira Abylbekovna, what did the survey show - from which sources do Kyrgyzstanis learn about politics and form their opinion?
- I think we should split the question. Firstly, where do people of Kyrgyzstan get information from in general, and secondly, what is the level of trust in these sources. It is clear that the main source of information for the regions is television. What is the source of political information? If we take the country as a whole, the survey shows that people started to use internet sources more, and YouTube comes out first. If social networks used to be the prerogative of a certain group and mainly in Bishkek, today people all over the country absorb information from social networks.
- Aida Jenishevna, can any data from the survey be presented as recommendations for state structures?
- We are going to do a series of discussions for different groups. First of all, it will be expert discussions. A lot of changes are happening now, and it is important to be able to analyze everything and make conclusions that can significantly adjust the plans. For our part, we can say that our foundation will do everything to make the data publicly available, and we are ready to provide a sociologist's explanation if interpretation is needed.
If you have any questions about the study "Parliamentary elections - 2020 in Kyrgyzstan through voters' eyes", please contact via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.