Bishkek, January 11, 2021, 16:00 - Early presidential elections in the Kyrgyz Republic were held within the law, but with a low turnout rate, and some violations were observed, as evidenced by the findings of the nonpartisan observation conducted by the Public Foundation Common Cause.
On election day, the Foundation deployed 500 short-term observers, 58 long-term observers, 58 mobile teams, 20 head office staff, 8 regional coordinators and 16 lawyers to oversee opening, voting, counting and tabulation procedures across the country. 500 short-term observers were deployed to 500 PECs across the country. The PECs were selected using a random stratified interval sample. The Foundation used Statistically Based Observation, an advanced election monitoring methodology that allows conclusions to be drawn that are representative of the entire country about specific electoral processes on election day.
According to the nonpartisan observation of the Common Cause PF, on the day of elections, the procedures for opening polling stations, the process of voting, closing polling stations and summing up the results were carried out with a number of procedural and serious violations. Nationwide, it should be positively noted that the introduction of smart ballot boxes and biometric registration may have reduced the number of serious violations impacting election results overall. Nonetheless, procedural irregularities and the failure of identification equipment and smart ballot boxes still constituted the majority of Common Cause’s observed findings. Given the improvements in process technology, which made Election Day much less problematic, special attention should be paid to violations that occur outside the polling station and during the pre-election period in the future.
According to the foundation's data, the turnout for early presidential elections in the Kyrgyz Republic was 39.3% with a margin of error of +/- 1.04%. According to the CEC information as of 22:00 January 10 the turnout is 39,75%. Compared to the 2017 official presidential election turnout which was 56,32%, this is a decrease of 16,57%.
Most of the polling stations were opened on time. However, one of the polling stations where the fund observer was did not open at all.
A large majority of PECs began preparations to open the polling stations on time: before 07:00 - 11%, before -7:30 - 56%, after 07:30 - 33%. There were no preparation meetings in only 1% of polling stations.
83% of precinct election commissions fully followed the recommendations on COVID-19 during the opening procedures, in 16% of polling stations the procedures were partially followed.
At 88.8% of polling stations, the drawing of lots was carried out in accordance with the law. Ballots were recounted at 97% of polling stations. Empty ballot boxes were shown to observers at 99% of polling stations.
Polling stations were mostly accessible to voters with disabilities: 80%, while 20% were completely inaccessible. Most of the polling stations were open at 08:00 - 78%, before 08:00 - 20%. 2% of sites opened after 08:30.
During election day, long queues were observed during election day in 26.9% of polling stations, while periodic queues were observed in 44.9% of polling stations, ostensibly due to social distancing associated with Covid-19.
Also, during the voting process during the day, serious technical problems arose related to the identification of voters and smart ballot boxes. Technical problems related to smart ballot boxes were observed in 29.1% of polling stations and 10% of problems were related to identification equipment, respectively. Due to the malfunctioning of smart ballot boxes at 4% of polling stations, they were replaced with stationary ballot boxes.
The majority of PECs (74.7%) fully followed the recommendations related to the COVID-19 during the voting process. However, 23.2% followed them only partially, while 2% did not follow them at all. The COVID-19 procedures were mainly followed by voters (69.7%), partially followed by 29.1% of voters, while 1.2% of voters did not comply with them.
In addition, there were problems with voter lists on election day at a large number of polling stations. In 12.2% of polling stations, from 6 to 10 voters could not find themselves in the voter lists, despite having the relevant identity documents, and in 15.6% of polling stations this number was more than 10 people.
Most of the polling stations were closed on time. 2.2% of polling stations were closed before 20:00 and 97.6% at 20:00.
At 75% of the polling stations at the time of closing, there were no voters inside the premises. At 25% of the polling stations, at the time of the closure, there were voters inside; all of them were given the opportunity to vote.
Vote counting procedures were followed in almost all polling stations. The followed procedures included the use of voter registration lists, unused ballots were reconciled and invalidated, and a manual recount was conducted according to the law. Minor procedural violations were reported by Common Cause’s observers during the closing and counting processes, such as Common Cause’s observers not being able to obtain certified copies of the summary protocols. 92% of Common Cause observers reported that complaints had not been filed by other electoral stakeholders at polling stations on election day, while 7% of observers reported that 1-5 complaints had been filed.
The secrecy of the vote was violated at 1% of polling stations. There was no reported pressure or intimidation at 99% of polling stations.
69% of PECs fully followed the recommendations related to the COVID-19 during the closing and counting procedures. However, 29% followed them only partially, while 2% did not follow them at all.
During the counting process, Common Cause observers reported that their rights were limited in only 1% of polling stations.
Common Cause’s mobile teams observed the situation outside of 535 polling Stations. At these polling stations, the situation was assessed as tense at 11 polling stations, as calm at 507 polling stations, and undetermined at 17 polling stations. In addition, long queues were observed at 61 polling stations, most likely due to social distancing measures related to Covid-19. Finally, the mobile teams observed the bussing of voters at 12 polling stations and the violation of the public order by individuals at 3 polling stations.
In total, 62 violations were recorded on voting day as of 08:00 January, 11, of which 6 messages were sent to the CEC, 11 cases were sent to the TECs, of which two disciplinary measures were taken against the chairmen of PECs and 45 appeals were submitted to PEC chairpersons. The reported violations by regions are distributed as follows: most of all appeals were received from Osh oblast - 18 appeals, Chui oblast - 10, Batken oblast - 9, Issyk-Kul - 8 and Naryn oblasts - 8, Bishkek - 4, Jalal-Abad oblast - 3 and the least of all appeals from Talas region - 2.
Despite the fact that the Foundation did not monitor the voting outside the premises, based on the data received from the reports of long-term observers, the Foundation submitted an application to the Central Election Commission about violations that took place during the voting outside the premises at 7 PECs.
Observations at TECs on the election day
After the closure of the polling stations at 20:00, the Territorial Election Commissions began receiving and tabulating PEC level election results as well as considering the complaints received. Common Cause’s observers were allowed to monitor at all 54 TECs; work in all TECs was carried out transparently on election day. Only half of the TECs fully followed the recommendations related to the COVID-19.
PF Common Cause observed the pre-election period in the Kyrgyz Republic starting on October 25, 2020. The pre-election observation covered the procedures for the nomination and registration of candidates for the position of President of the Kyrgyz Republic, the formation and operation of election commissions at all levels (CEC, TEC, PEC), procedures for the formation and updating of voter lists, pre-election campaigning, as well as identifying violations of electoral legislation and filing appeals (statements and complaints) to the appropriate authorities.
Having fulfilled the requirements of the CEC of the Kyrgyz Republic, 18 candidates were registered with the CEC, including one woman. The election campaign started on December 15, 2020, the candidates began their campaigns in accordance with the requirements of the law. In general, the election campaign was held peacefully, but there were violations that usually affect the election results.
On October 16, the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic (JK KR) accepted the voluntary resignation of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov. Since the JK KR did not set early presidential elections within the specified timeframe, the CEC decided on October 24, 2020 to set the date for early presidential elections according to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. The selected date for the early presidential elections was set for January 10, 2021. There was a quorum at the CEC meeting, and the decision was made transparently.
Klara Sooronkulova, the former judge of the chamber, applied to the Constitutional Chamber with a request to confirm the draft law on postponing the parliamentary elections for compliance with the Constitution.
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic determined that the draft law on the postponement of parliamentary elections, adopted by the Jogorku Kenesh on October 22, did not contradict the Constitution.
However, the decision of the Constitutional Chamber intensified criticism of the judiciary authorities. The community of lawyers and some representatives of civil society following the court’s decision, claimed that “the Constitutional Chamber has turned into a body that legitimizes the illegal affairs of the authorities”.
On December 10, 2020, the Jogorku Kenesh adopted a Law “On the appointment of a referendum (popular vote) to determine the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic”, specifying that a referendum should take place simultaneously with the early elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. This law proposes to choose a form of government, but does not provide for the introduction of amendments to the Constitution following a referendum.
According to our observation, questions on the referendum resulted in a polarization of society. Portions of the population, who supposedly support Sadyr Japarov as the candidate for the post of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, are in favor of the presidential form of government. Portions of the population who are against the presidential form of government, presumably since this form of government will lead to undesirable consequences. Another portion of the population is in favor of a hybrid system of the government with a bias either towards the presidential or towards the parliamentary form of government.
The CEC registered 333 international observers from 44 countries representing 35 international organizations and 13 non-commercial organizations were accredited to observe elections.
The main legislative basis for elections and referenda is the Constitution of the KR, the Constitutional Laws “On Elections of the President of the KR and deputies of the JK KR”, “On a Referendum”, regulating the conduct of elections and referenda, as well as the Laws “On election commissions”, “On peaceful assemblies”, and other normative legal acts, including regulations of the CEC, governing certain provisions of the constitutional Law within their competence. In addition, the “Criminal Code of the KR”, “Code of the KR on Violations” and “Code of the KR on Offenses” establish responsibility for violations during the electoral period.
In general, in view of Common Cause, the electoral legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic has a solid base of normative legal acts regulating certain issues related to the organization and conduct of elections at the national and local levels.
The Kyrgyz Republic committed to the principles of democratic elections in the country, and is a signatory to many international treaties governing the conduct of elections.
The electoral legislation was amended and altered in 2017, 2019 and 2020, mainly in accordance with the National Strategy of Improvement of Electoral Legislation for 2018-2020. Common Cause believes that the amendments have strengthened the legal framework, but a number of restrictions, as well as gaps and ambiguities remain, especially with regards to the rights of the media, public observers, campaign rules and financing.
Socio - political situation
In general, Common Cause believes that the pre-election campaign period was calm, although there were facts of violations of public order associated with the local activity of certain representatives of political groups. Common Cause’s observers noted that the tension in the Batken region was related to border problems, in the Osh and Chui regions the population was concerned about the epidemiological situation, in the Jalal-Abad region and in Bishkek - in connection with the rallies.
The election process took place against the backdrop of a difficult economic situation, that was characterized by increasing food prices and reduced income of the population, which further caused concern among citizens.
The economic and political crises, the global pandemic, the winter period and other circumstances influenced the comprehensive quality of the preparatory procedures, as well as the activity of the candidates.
At a press conference on December 24, 2020, the chairman of the State National Security Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic Kamchybek Tashiev, stated that after the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, the situation could be destabilized by certain candidates for the post of the President who are not campaigning, but who are preparing to destabilize the situation after the elections. According to him, the special services intend to suppress attempts at unrest in the country. After these words, alarmingly, the armed forces conducted exercises according to a conventional scenario of suppressing protests.
Activities of the CEC, TECs, PECs
In general, according to our observation the activities and preparation of election commissions at all levels are assessed by the Common Cause as quite satisfactory, especially given the tight timing of the campaign and difficult epidemiological situation. The activities were carried out transparently and within the established procedures; the principle of collegiality was observed when making decisions.
At the same time, the Common Cause observed that there are certain shortcomings in the work of certain territorial election commissions, including a lack of transparency, insufficient materials and technical equipment, and violations of sanitary norms.
The number of TECs is 54, PECs - 2474, including 48 PECs abroad.
In 93% of TECs, the quota of representation of political parties was met. Almost 80% of TECs have partial or full access to the building for PWDs, 20% do not have such access. In 92% PECs were formed in compliance with the quota of political parties. At 30 % of observed PECs,problems with office l equipment were observed.
According to the CEC of the KR, the total number of voters in the Kyrgyz Republic is 3,563,574 people. Compared to the parliamentary elections held on October 4, 2020, there was an increase in registered voters by 40,020 people. The final voter lists for the early presidential elections and the referendum were finalized on January 2 and posted at all polling stations in the country, as well as on the electronic portal of voters "Tizme" (tizme.gov.kg).
At the same time, according to various estimates, approximately 450,000 citizens without biometric registration were unable to vote on election day. In addition, another approximate 300,000 voters were deprived of their right to vote because of the cancellation of voting at the electoral address or by the Form No.
A distinctive feature of the elections was the cancellation of voting according to Form No. 2, which caused anxiety on the part of the population in connection with the inability to vote at the changed address. In this regard, Common Cause believes that the cancellation of voting according to the Form No. 2 without proposing an alternative option, which deprived over 300,000 citizens of the opportunity to vote, is a serious problem of this election, since it excluded a large number of voters from the voting process.
Common Cause observers noted that the pre-election campaign in the early presidential elections was not competitive. The principle of equality was not fully provided to all candidates. Some candidates noted pressure on campaigners in Issyk-Kul, Chui and Osh Oblasts. The most active campaign among the candidates was performed by Sadyr Zhaparov, Babyrzhan Tolbaev, Adakhan Madumarov, and Kursan Asanov. The largest number of headquarters, billboards, agitators and the largest electoral fund belongs to the candidate Sadyr Japarov.
The referendum issues were an important part of the presidential elections campaign,of presidential candidates, in particular Sadyr Japarov .
Since December 28, 2020, TV debates were aired on the Public Channel until January 8, 2021. Almost all candidates took part in the televised debates, except for S. Japarov.
As part of long-term observation, Common Cause did not monitor the media. However, the society was quite critical about the actions of certain state TV channels, in particular, OTRK.
So during the broadcasting, as well as in the process of televised debates, there were cases, including on the part of the presenters, of signs of campaigning for the presidential form of government. One debate was broadcasted live by the OTRK channel both on their Facebook official page and on YouTube video hosting. At the end of the debates of the candidates, the KTRK staff deleted their records from these Internet resources.
In total, 7 complaints were filed against OTRK to the CEC.
In the light of recent events, certain pressure is seen on the media, for example, there are calls being made to the Azattyk news agency to close this broadcaster.
Employees of the Public Foundation “Common Cause” during the pre-election period held meetings with 16 candidates for the position of President or with their representatives out of 18.
Most of the candidates pointed to problems associated with the abuse of administrative resources in Bishkek City, Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts. In particular, the concerns of the candidates was due to the fact that in the Issyk-Kul region (in the city of Karakol and in the Ton region), they did not allow other candidates, except for S. Japarov, to open regional headquarters. According to A.Madumarov, this practice is observed for the first time in the entire period of the elections since the country's independence, and therefore, many candidates were unable to meet with voters in the region, except for candidate A. Kasenov. Candidate A. Madumarov in his address during OTRK broadcasting reported serious threats against representatives of their headquarters and agitators in the Issyk-Kul region. Most of the candidates noted that there was intimidation against agitators who did not work for S. Japarov's headquarters.
The Foundation's employees met with representatives of the referendum campaign groups: "Against" the presidential republic, the "Against all options" campaign group and the "For a parliamentary republic" campaign group.
During the entire pre-election campaign from December 15, 2020 to January 8, 2021, long-term observers of Common Cause reported information about 85 violations. Of these, 53 on the use of administrative resources, 17 on cases of vote buying, 15 on cases of pressure, threats and violence. A total of 22 violations were submitted to the CEC KGOR .
Common Cause analyzed all of the recorded violations. If the violations were minor and could not impact the pre-election period, Common Cause made the decision not to appeal to the relevant authorities on them. Some violations were addressed immediately after contacting PECs and TECs.
The analysis of the received reports demonstrates that they mainly concerned the abuse of administrative resources. Common Cause was deeply concerned about the large number of reports from long-term observers about the abuse of administrative resources by the supporters of the candidate Sadyr Japarov.
During the entire pre-election period, the CEC received 79 complaints, 22 of them from Common Cause.
Consideration of complaints
In the course of monitoring the activities of the bodies considering electoral disputes, Common Cause observed problems that required resolution. In particular, this concerns the failure of lower-level election commissions (TECs and PECs) to comply with the deadlines for received complaints and appeals. A similar situation was recorded in the work of law enforcement bodies. At the same time, decisions on the violations do not contain justifications.
In connection with this problem, Common Cause believes it is necessary to consider the possibility of establishing responsibility for the full and timely consideration of the received applications (appeals, complaints, etc.), to provide justifications for the decisions made, to strengthen the work of law enforcement bodies on the review of the received complaints and appeals, as well as to introduce mechanisms for monitoring the activities of law enforcement authorities.
In the process of meetings with candidate headquarters, headquarters representatives stated that there was a bias in handling complaints by the CEC and law enforcement bodies on individual violations of electoral legislation. During the preparation and conduct of elections, KGORs were formed by decisions of the election commissions at the CEC and TEC levels, which include, respectively, members of the CEC and TECs, staff of the CEC office and representatives of law enforcement agencies (Prosecutor’s office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, State Committee for National Security of the Kyrgyz Republic). The KGOR’s aim was to promptly respond to violations of electoral legislation and inform citizens about the measures taken.
For the entire period of the pre-election campaign 79 complaints were submitted to the CEC of the Kyrgyz Republic, 39 of them were transferred to KGOR.
For the final report, Common Cause will conduct a detailed analysis of the violations identified and provide a detailed description of the complaints submitted.
Summing up the pre-election period, the following can be noted:
The Common Cause will continue to monitor the work of precinct election commissions and territorial election commissions in the post-election period and monitor the processes taking place after election day, and, if necessary, will publish periodic statements, releases and reports.
The Common Cause did not observe the course of voting in the referendum to determine the form of government in the Kyrgyz Republic.
1. To the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic on introducing amendments and additions to certain regulatory legal acts:
2. To the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic
1) Strengthen the work with the civil sector, with the inclusion of representatives of the civil sector in the Republican Headquarters for the preparation and conduct of elections.
2) Implement the proposals of the civil sector through a legislative initiative.
3) Strengthen the work of law enforcement agencies in reviewing complaints and applications;
3. To the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic:
1) Ensure the timely delivery of Central Election Commission decisions to all participants in the electoral process;
2) Timely post the statutory instruments of the Central Election Commission on the website of the Central Election Commission when making amendments and additions to the existing statutory instruments.
3) Develop a consistent practice of accountability for certain types of violations of electoral legislation;
Common Cause would like to thank all election administration bodies for their cooperation as well as its observers and staff who were observing and helping during the pre-election period and on election day across the country.
The Common Cause will continue to monitor the post-election period.