Electoral processes in Kyrgyzstan have become more frequent in recent years, and the activities of the Central Election Commission for Elections and Referendums (CEC) of the Kyrgyz Republic started to attract more attention. The Common Cause Public Foundation analyzed IRI (International Republican Institute) data on how Kyrgyzstanis assess the effectiveness of the CEC and how the assessment has changed since 2012.
For reference: IRI collects public opinion data in more than 100 countries. In Kyrgyzstan, IRI has been conducting surveys annually in all regions since 2006. The survey methodology uses a randomly selected sample, mostly consisting of 1,200 to 1,500 Kyrgyz citizens aged 18 and older. Only in 2012 the CEC appeared among the surveyed indicators in the question "What is your opinion of the performance of each of the following institutions?"
In the chart below we have presented the trends in how citizens' opinions about the activities of the CEC of the Kyrgyz Republic have changed since 2012.
On average, over the years of the study, the positive assessment of the CEC KR activities ranged from 31% to 59%. After two years, this assessment drops to 31%. At the same time, the number of those who do not know about the activities of the CEC is increasing; their percentage was 57%. The number of those who spoke negatively about the CEC fell from 38% in 2012 to 12% in 2014, but rose to 50% in February-March 2015. Negative attitudes peaked in August 2020 (56%) before the October 4, 2020 parliamentary elections, the results of which were later cancelled. More than half of the respondents (51%) also had a negative view of the CEC before the early presidential elections in January 2021. We observe almost the same situation in the polls during the repeat elections to the city councils in July 2021 (53%).
On average, over the years of the study, the positive assessment of the CEC KR activities ranged from 31% to 59%. Is it a lot or a little? To answer this question, we compared the assessments of election commissions in Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, where IRI applied the same methodology in polling citizens as it did in Kyrgyzstan. It turned out that 59% was the highest positive rating among these four countries.
The positive assessment of the CEC in Moldova fluctuates between 13% in 2015 and 41% in 2019. But a negative assessment dominates throughout the entire period under review. Of the four countries under review, Moldova's CEC received the highest negative score of 67% in 2015.
We were only able to find IRI publications from 2018 on the evaluation of CEC activities in Armenia. During this period, the attitude of citizens to the activities of the CEC was also ambiguous: from 24% to 53%.
In Georgia, the assessment of the CEC's activities varies from 34% to 54%. In comparison with Kyrgyzstan, there is a fairly stable assessment for the period under review. However, since March 2016, a more negative assessment of the work of the Georgian CEC has dominated.
In Kyrgyzstan, in contrast to Moldova, Armenia and Georgia, there are sharp jumps in the assessment of the CEC KR activities. The peak of positive assessment was observed in the polls conducted in February and March 2017, where 59% of respondents noted the CEC activities as positive. At this time, the share of those who negatively assess the CEC's work is decreasing, as is the share of those who are unaware of the CEC's work. This coincided with the first year of operation of the new CEC under the leadership of the current chairman, Nurzhan Shaildabekova. We observe the same indicators at the end of 2017 after the presidential election, which ended in a peaceful transfer of power. After that, the indicators fall, which can probably be explained by the lull between elections.
Starting from 2020, in its research on institutions in Kyrgyzstan, IRI is already examining the CEC activities more broadly, highlighting it separately with the question "In your opinion, how effective or ineffective is the Central Election Commission in organizing and monitoring elections in Kyrgyzstan?"
Such a research approach is quite understandable against the background of the socio-political events that took place in Kyrgyzstan with the elections during this period.
IRI conducted four surveys among the country's residents before the parliamentary elections on October 4, 2020, before the presidential elections in December 2020 and after the elections in February-March 2021, and during the repeat elections to local councils in Bishkek, Osh and Tokmok in July 2021.
The chart below shows the results of the surveys from August 2020 to July 2021.
In August 2020, a large percentage of respondents - 56% (27% "to some extent effective" and 29% "very ineffective") - remained dissatisfied with the performance Another 26% of those surveyed found the CEC's work to be to some extent effective. And only a small fraction assessed it as very effective - 8%.
Until February-March 2021, the percentage of negative attitudes towards the work of the CEC remains higher than positive (51%). After that, the indicator of those who positively assessed the activities of the Central Election Commission rose to 58%.
At the repeat elections to local councils in July 2021 one can already feel a certain apathy among respondents toward the electoral process. That's why the assessment is more often given as "to some extent effective/ineffective".
As a matter of fact, in the last survey in July 2021, IRI presented data separately by age, gender, and type of settlement for the question "In your opinion, how effective or ineffective is the Central Election Commission in organizing and monitoring elections in Kyrgyzstan?"
By age group:
People aged 18-35 have more faith in the effectiveness of the CEC in conducting elections, but those aged 56+ not so much.
Women rated the performance more positively (44%) than men (37%).
By the type of settlement:
The urban population has less faith in the effectiveness of the CEC. Only 3% rated its work as "very effective". 36% of those surveyed responded "very ineffective" and 32% responded "to some extent ineffective." It can be said that the urban population has a more negative attitude than the rural population. Only 29% of urban respondents responded positively, while 68% responded negatively.
The rural population has more faith in the effectiveness of the CEC; the answer "to some extent effective" was chosen by 37% of respondents living in rural areas, and "very effective" by 10%. Overall, 47% of respondents gave a positive assessment and 45% gave a negative one. However, there are more villagers who are not familiar with the activities of the CEC, judging by the fact that 7% of respondents chose to answer "I don't know / I refuse to reply".
Thus, in 10 years of IRI research to assess the effectiveness of the CEC in organizing and monitoring elections in Kyrgyzstan, the opinion of the population was mixed. Sharp spikes in both positive and negative indicators are observed during the parliamentary and presidential elections.
It can be unequivocally said that over the years, the number of those who know the CEC or are familiar with its activities as an institution involved in the organization, conduct and monitoring of elections in the country is increasing.