Statement by the Mission of Monitors from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on monitoring the preparations for and holding of the election of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic on 15 October 2017

The presidential election in Kyrgyzstan

On 10-15 October, 2017, the Mission of Monitors from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, hereinafter referred to as the Mission, monitored the preparations for and holding of the election of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic at the invitation of the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Mission regards the invitation of international monitors as an indication of the striving of the leaders of the Kyrgyz Republic to guarantee that the presidential election is as open, transparent and democratic as possible.

1. The Mission's members

The Mission consists of representatives of legislative, executive and electoral bodies of SCO member-states and SCO Secretariat officials. Representatives of India and Pakistan, the new SCO member-states, joined the Mission for the first time.

SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov headed the Mission.

The Mission included the following members:

from the Republic of India: Verma Rakesh Kumar, Second Secretary with the Republic of India Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic;

from the Republic of Kazakhstan: Sultan Dyusembinov, Secretary of the Almaty Region's Maslikhat (Municipal Parliament); Yermek Apekov, Chief Inspector of the Almaty Region's Akim;

from the People's Republic of China: Jiang Wei, Deputy Section Head at the PRC Foreign Ministry's Department of Europe and Central Asia;

from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Zafar Ikbal Hussain, Additional Secretary of the Election Commission;

from the Russian Federation: Vladimir Pozdnyakov, Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly (Parliament); Mikhail Kozlov, Member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly; Siyabshakh Shapiyev, Member of the Central Election Commission;

from the Republic of Tajikistan: Nurali Saidov, Secretary-Coordinator of the Public Council;

from the Republic of Uzbekistan: Abdullazhan Khamrakulov, Deputy of the Legislative Chamber of the Supreme Assembly/Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of Uzbekistan; Ulugbek Abduyaminov, Councilor with the Republic of Uzbekistan Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic;

from the SCO Secretariat: Nurali Irzayev, Senior Expert; Lu Yi, Second Category Expert; Ulzhan Galinova, Assistant.

2. The Mission's activities

The Mission fulfilled its functions in line with the Statute of the Mission of SCO Monitors of Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums. Its members honoured the principle of political neutrality and non-interference in the domestic affairs of the state and in strict conformity with the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The authorities created all the required conditions for the Mission's members, so that they could prepare for and monitor the election. This shows the openness and transparency of the election process.

The Mission acted in line with its official work plan.

The Mission's members met and spoke with senior officials of the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums, chairpersons, secretaries and members of territorial and district election commissions, voters, local and public monitors, heads and members of monitoring missions from foreign states and international organisations and representatives of media outlets.

The Mission's members were informed in detail about the work of the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums, its efforts to prepare for and hold the election, including at Kyrgyzstan's diplomatic missions abroad.

All of the Mission's findings and conclusions are based on the personal observations of its members and facts collected during preparations for the election and on the day of the election.

3. The legal framework of the election of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic

The Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and Deputies of the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh) (No. 68 of 2 July 2011), the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Election Commissions to Hold Elections and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic (No. 62 of 30 June, 2011), resolutions and decisions of the Central Commission for Holding Elections and Referendums and other regulatory acts form the legal framework of elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic.
On 14 June 2017, the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh) passed its Resolution No. 1681-VI and set the date for the election of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic for 15 October 2017 in line with section 1(2) of Article 74 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, section 1 of Article 48 of the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and Deputies of the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh), section 1(2) of Article 3 and Article 134 of the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on the Regulations of the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh).

The Mission conducted an in-depth assessment of the Kyrgyz Republic's election laws. Kyrgyzstan has created all the required conditions for the parties to the election process at legislative level. The Kyrgyz Republic holds elections on the basis of universal, equal and direct election rights and by secret ballot. The elections are based on the free and voluntary exercise of election rights by the citizens of the republic.

The Mission focused on measures to streamline and democratise election laws of the Kyrgyz Republic and notes the following aspects:

First, citizens of Kyrgyzstan exercising active voting rights on the day of elections who have completed biometric registration are included in voters' lists at the relevant polling station according to registration or a statement regarding their voting address (Form No. 2);

Second, the State Registration Service at the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic compiles a list of voters on the basis of personal and biometric data contained in the Integral State Population Register;

Third, election commissions preparing for and holding elections enforce and protect the election rights of the Kyrgyz Republic's citizens using an official website on the Internet portal;

Fourth, identifying voters by their biometric and personal data on election day using automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes making it possible to automatically count voting returns and to quickly send them to a server of the Central Election Commission;

Fifth, installing the required number of automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes at polling stations, as well as the procedure of using reserve ballot-boxes by a district election commission in the event of malfunctioning ballot-boxes;

Sixth, installing special equipment at voting facilities, including voting booths, monitors and boxes, for the purpose of visual control by monitors, authorised representatives of candidates and political parties;

Seventh, setting up voting facilities for people with disabilities;

Eighth, organisation of the voting process for people who are incarcerated but have not yet been sentenced by courts;

Ninth, the creation of favourable conditions for citizens unable to vote on election day for various reasons; this implies an early voting mechanism.

Amendments were made to the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and Deputies of the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh). For example, the institution of public monitors was introduced; the procedure for establishing election districts was determined; the involvement of online publications in election campaigns was regulated accordingly; the deadline for people to acquaint themselves with voters' lists was extended; candidates' election deposits increased ten-fold, and the ceiling of their campaign funds' expenses was abolished.

The Mission notes that amendments to national election legislation in the past few years have strengthened the legal framework for guaranteeing the free and open expression of voters' will.

For the purpose of explaining certain provisions of the Constitutional Law and guaranteeing the uniform application of its norms, the Central Election Commission has approved the statutes On the Organisation of Voting and its Procedure, on Establishing Voting Returns During Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, On the Procedure of Cooperation between the Central Commission for Holding Elections and Referendums and the State Registration Service at the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic during Preparations for and during Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Deputies of the Kyrgyz Republic's Supreme Council/Parliament (Zhogorku Kenesh) and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic, On Guaranteeing Election Rights of Certain Categories of Citizens during Elections and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as a Manual for Candidates for President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

4. Presidential candidates in the Kyrgyz Republic

The 15 October 2017 presidential election in the Kyrgyz Republic involved the following 11 candidates:

1. Ernis Zarlykov, independent candidate;
2. Toktaiym Umetaliyeva, independent candidate;
3. Temir Sariyev, Akshumkar Party;
4. Ulukbek Kochkorov, independent candidate;
5. Taalatbek Masadykov, independent candidate;
6. Omurbek Babanov, independent candidate;
7. Arstanbek Abdyldayev, independent candidate;
8. Azimbek Beknazarov, independent candidate;
9. Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan;
10. Adakhan Madumarov, Butun Kyrgyzstan Party;
11. Arslanbek Maliyev, independent candidate.

5. Election campaigns

The Central Commission for Elections and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic approved a statute On the Procedure for Holding Election Campaigns during Presidential Elections in the Kyrgyz Republic that regulates the procedure and conditions.

The Mission notes that election campaign events were held in accordance with Kyrgyz Republic law, based on widely available information and promotion; these events received detailed and diverse media coverage.

Equal conditions were created for fair competition between the parties in the election process. Presidential candidates of the Kyrgyz Republic received equal and free access to prime time coverage and equal sized print media space. They received equal opportunities to meet with voters. The presidential candidates distributed campaign materials during these events and explained their platforms.

The Mission notes that materials dealing with efforts to prepare for and hold the presidential election in the Kyrgyz Republic were distributed in the state language (Kyrgyz) and the official language (Russian).

The Mission notes that the highly competitive presidential elections in the Kyrgyz Republic were held in an open and transparent atmosphere, with the active involvement of civil society representatives, and that favourable conditions were created, allowing citizens to make an independent and well thought-out choice.

The Mission did not receive any complaints or remarks about the media outlets covering the campaign.

6. Preparatory work

The Mission notes that comprehensive work to guarantee the peoples' election rights was conducted during the implementation of the calendar plan of the main events to prepare for and hold presidential elections by the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic and election commissions at all levels.

In all, 2,375 polling stations were established, including 33 additional polling stations and 37 polling stations at the Kyrgyz Republic's diplomatic missions abroad.

A total of 3,025,770 voters were registered.

The Central Commission established the following working groups: for accepting documents of presidential candidates, for accepting and checking candidate nomination lists, for informing voters and other election-process parties about efforts to prepare for and hold presidential elections, for monitoring compliance with election campaign regulations during elections, for reviewing statements and complaints of voters and other parties. Plus, other groups were established.

The presidential elections took place under a new election model using new technology (voting via biometric data using automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes).

This technology was first tested during the 11 December 2016 referendum on the draft law On Amending the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and also during early elections of deputies to some local keneshes (councils) of the Kyrgyz Republic on 28 May 2017.

Under the new voting model, election results are summed up on the basis of protocols listing hand-counted ballots. Data provided by automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes is used to verify the authenticity of hand-counted ballot data. The Central Commission conducted tests using automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes that were deemed successful.

In an effort to prevent possible technical malfunctions that might have been caused by human error, operator training methods were streamlined, and special teaching aids on the new technology were compiled. Coaches received international certificates and trained personnel to use automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes nationwide.

To minimise any time loss due to technical malfunction, the Central Commission together with the State Registration Service of the Kyrgyz Republic established professional technical support groups in every region of the country. Each IT expert was provided with a vehicle to quickly respond to requests.

Essential organisational work to deliver automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes to the country's remote mountain areas and to introduce a mechanism for online voting-return data transmission was conducted.

Every voter in the Kyrgyz Republic was able to check his or her personal data in the overall list of voters in advance using the National Information Campaign "Check Yourself in the Lists" on the internet portal of the Central Commission's website.

The Central Commission's website posted regulatory documents and materials to explain the distinguishing features of the national election system and pre-election news. Central and regional printed media outlets and television news broadcasts covered election issues.

Thirteen promo videos on the elections were prepared in the Kyrgyz and Russian languages at the request of the Central Commission, and were shown on national television and broadcast on the radio. They were also posted on the Central Commission's official website. A guidebook for international monitors overseeing the election of the president of the Kyrgyz Republic on 15 October 2017 was printed in Russian and in English. A presentation of the vote-return data transmission system and automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes was also organised.

7. Voting day

On 15 October 2017, voting day, members of the Mission arrived at polling stations before they opened and oversaw the preparation of ballots and automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes.

Members of the Mission monitored elections in five out of the seven regions of the Kyrgyz Republic and in cities with republican affiliation. The Mission visited 189 polling stations in the cities of Bishkek, Osh, Kant, Kara-Balta, Cholpon-Ata, Balykchy, Uzgen, as well as those in communities of the Chuy, Issyk-Kul, Naryn, Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.

The Mission notes that the election began on a celebratory note, that is, by playing the national anthem of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Mission's monitors visited polling stations without any advanced planning and without coordinating their visits with executive and election agencies. Each Mission member independently chose a polling station. Mission members faced no obstacles while visiting polling stations.

The Mission notes the active participation of citizens in the election and the impressive professionalism of members of district election commissions.

Members of district election commissions created the required conditions for holding the voting process, they remained unbiased during the voting process, they provided exhaustive explanations on various issues raised by voters, and they treated voters, as well as local, public and international monitors tactfully and attentively.

Election commissions worked skillfully, in an open, transparent and independent manner.

District election commissions had all the required documentation, information and reference materials, monitor registration journals, methodological compilations, duty schedules for their officials, evacuation diagrams and other documents.

Polling stations had enough automatic vote-recording ballot-boxes for accommodating all voters, as well as reserve ballot-boxes for use by district election commissions in case of emergency.

Braille ballots were printed for visually impaired persons for the first time. Senior citizens, as well as people with disabilities, were treated in a particularly tactful manner. Those who came first and those who had never voted before received commemorative souvenirs.

In an effort to guarantee a transparent voting process, video cameras were installed at polling stations and merged in a single computer network. This allowed the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic to monitor the voting process online and to maintain stable video communications with the country's regions.

The voting process at polling stations proceeded calmly and in the presence of local, public and international monitors and media representatives; and the established procedure was duly complied with.

Members of the Mission were also present during the closing of polling stations, the vote-counting process and the signing of election commissions' protocols on voting returns.

The Mission's representatives did not receive any complaints or remarks regarding the voting process.

At the same time, the Mission noted some technical violations which were not numerous and which could not have influenced the results of the election.

8. Main conclusions

The Mission states that the presidential election in the Kyrgyz Republic met the requirements of the Kyrgyz Republic's election laws and its international obligations.

The Mission did not note any violations of provisions of national laws that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

The Mission recognises the latest election as open, free and democratic.

The Mission states that the latest presidential election was an important step on the road of furthering democratic processes in the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Mission congratulates the people of Kyrgyzstan on the latest presidential election in the Kyrgyz Republic, wishes them every success in strengthening independence, sovereignty and maintaining the country's socioeconomic development, as well as new achievements in all areas of life and prosperity.

The Mission of Monitors from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation expresses profound gratitude to the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Foreign Ministry of the Kyrgyz Republic, the State Agency for Architecture, Construction, Housing, Utilities and Amenities at the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as other organisations and agencies for their comprehensive assistance and help during its work.

Mission of Monitors from
the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
16 October 2017, Bishkek