Statement by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Observer Mission on monitoring the preparations for and holding of elections to the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic

SCO Observer Mission monitored the preparations for and holding of elections to the unicameral Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic

Acting at the invitation of the Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's Observer Mission (hereinafter referred to as the Mission) monitored the preparations for and holding of elections to the unicameral Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic, held on 4 October 2020.

The Mission was chaired by Sergei Kryuchek, member of the Committee on Natural Resources, Property and Land of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. The Mission included members of legislative authorities, educational establishments and diplomats from the SCO member states.

The Mission regards the invitation of international observers to monitor the election process as proof of the desire of the Kyrgyz Republic to ensure the parliamentary elections have maximum openness, transparency and a democratic nature.

1. The Mission's activities

The Mission worked under the SCO Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums and the principles of political neutrality, objectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of the country in question, as well as in strict compliance with the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Ahead of the elections, members of the Mission visited a number of election commissions in Bishkek to assess their readiness for the elections.

The host country created the necessary conditions for monitoring the preparations for and holding of elections. Exhaustive information was provided about the election campaign and the accredited observers representing political parties, the general public, international organisations and the media.

The Mission's conclusions are based on personal observations conducted by the Mission staff and factual material collected during the preparations for the election and on the election day to the parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On the election day, 4 October 2020, the Mission staff arrived at the polling stations at 8 am to watch local officials prepare the ballot papers and the automatic ballot reading boxes.

The Mission staff, who visited over 30 polling stations in Bishkek, noted a high turnout on the election day. There were the authorised representatives of the candidates, observers from political parties and public associations, as well as

international organisations and the media present at the polling stations visited by the Mission staff.

Members of the SCO Mission did not receive any complaints or criticism from the candidates' authorised representatives or observers.

2. Legislative framework for elections

The Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Election of President of the Kyrgyz Republic and Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic and other laws and regulations form the basis of the legislative framework for elections.

3. Innovations in the electoral legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic

In August 2018, a Strategy for Improving the Electoral Legislation in 2018-2020 was adopted in the Kyrgyz Republic to improve the election legislation.

The main goal of the strategy is to prevent the violation of the electoral legislation, improve the protection of people's election rights and reinforce the principle of free and democratic elections.

In addition to this, in July 2020, the Central Election Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic, seeking to improve the election process and introduce liability for violation of election legislation, initiated amendments to Kyrgyz laws, in particular, the Code on Minor Offences, the Code on Infractions, the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Other measures have been taken to improve the organisation of elections. In particular, the approved amendments postponed the deadlines for finalising the lists of candidates and added an online form for submitting applications to change the election address or personal data via the voter's account on the government services' website.

4. Using modern information and digital technologies

The Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic website provided comprehensive coverage of the activities of the Central Election Commission, and also complete information on the course of the elections.

The access conditions for voting have been improved. In particular, the Tizme website went online to provide monthly updates; the timeframe for verifying voters on electoral lists was increased by 20 days, an electronic voter account was organised, and biometric registration was activated.

This election to the Jogorku Kenesh was the first parliamentary vote that implemented the requirement for the mandatory posting of election programmes on

the official Central Election Commission website. The Candidates and Parties page contains the programmes and general information about each party. Another important aspect of the elections is the publication of financial statements by parties and candidates that disclose the source of funding and give details of all expenditure.

Furthermore, training webinars and videos on the electoral process have been organised. A single portal was launched where citizens could check their polling station number by sending a text from their mobile phone; citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic were also able to follow the course of the election campaign on social media and via mobile apps.

To vote, a voter was identified by their biometric and personal data scanned by automatic ballot boxes, which also provided automatic counting and promptly uploaded the voting results to the Central Election Commission server. The polling stations have been equipped with automated control systems, in particular, special equipment in the voting rooms (booths, monitors, ballot boxes) for visual control by observers and representatives of political parties.

Special sanitary and epidemiological safety measures were adopted due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic; in particular, the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic developed an Algorithm for organising and holding elections of deputies to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic during this period.

Under this algorithm, on election day, voters have their temperature taken with contactless thermometers at the entrance to the polling stations and all members of precinct election commissions and voters are provided with personal protective equipment (facemasks and gloves). They are also required to keep a distance of 1.5 — 2 metres both outside and inside the voting premises.

5. Candidates to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic

Sixteen political parties took part in the elections to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic: Birimdik (Unity) democratic party, Mekenchil political party, Yiman Nuru Party of Justice and Development, Mekenim Kyrgyzstan political party, Reform political party, Ata Meken Socialist Party, Zamandash Political Party, Butun Kyrgyzstan Political Party, Social Democrats Political Party, Meken Yntymagy political party, the Party of War Veterans in Afghanistan and Participants of other Local Battle Conflicts, Ordo political party, Bir Bol State Unity and Patriotism political party, Republic political party, Kyrgyzstan political party, and Chong Kazat political party. These parties nominated and registered 1,912 candidates — 1,294 men and 618 women, 41 candidates with disabilities, 605 citizens under 35 and 326 candidates of other nationalities.

6. Election campaign

Under the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Regulations on the Procedure for Election Campaigning during the Election of Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, the pre-election campaign began 30 days before the voting day and closed one day before.

Political parties engaged in campaigning on equal terms (using the media, holding mass events in compliance with social distancing and sanitary and epidemiological requirements, issuing and distributing campaign booklets and using other formats stipulated in Kyrgyz legislation). In addition, extensive advice was provided regarding the rules for conducting election campaigns on central television.

7. Conditions for voters with disabilities

The necessary conditions were created across the Kyrgyz Republic to ensure that people with disabilities enjoyed equal opportunities when exercising their constitutional rights.

The Central Commission for Elections and Holding Referendums of the Kyrgyz Republic made a big effort to enable people with disabilities to exercise their voting rights. In particular, it released 12,400 leaflets in a special format. The Commission's official website offered audio messages for people with disabilities explaining how to check voter registration, voting procedures and on exercising voting rights abroad, as well as a video clip on measures to enable people with disabilities to vote in the election.

The Commission also printed 2,400 "Call Button" signs so that people with disabilities could request assistance from Election Commission members in order to access polling stations.

Moreover, each polling station had one voting booth with a sticker indicating that it was suitable for people with disabilities. These booths were equipped with a magnifying glass and a Braille slate. The Central Election Commission operated a call centre from its premises, where people with disabilities served among the operators.

As of the voting day, 79 percent of polling stations were equipped with ramps.

8. Election preparations

All the necessary steps to prepare the election to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic were carried out as per the Executive Order of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Declaring the Election of Deputies to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, dated 2 July 2020, as well as under the Calendar Plan for the main events to organise and hold the election.

The Central Election Commission set up 2,450 polling stations across the Kyrgyz Republic, and also 45 polling stations abroad to enable Kyrgyz citizens living abroad to exercise their voting rights.

Accessibility of polling stations improved dramatically with the number of stations with installed ramps increasing from 27 percent in 2017 to 78 percent in 2020. A number of steps were taken to encourage women and young people to vote.

There were 277 international observers from 43 countries monitoring the election. They represented 33 organisations, 77 NGOs and 16 political parties.

9. Key conclusions

Events held as part of the election campaign were carried out openly and generated extensive media coverage in strict keeping with the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic. Participants in the electoral process enjoyed equal conditions regardless of their party affiliation or political views. Coverage of all the stages in the campaign was consistent with the current laws, and the candidates published their programmes, demonstrating that the election campaign was open, transparent and competitive.

The Mission notes that the election was highly competitive and followed an open and transparent election campaign with the proactive involvement of civil society representatives and empowering people to make a free and informed choice.

The Mission declares that the election of deputies to the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic was carried out in keeping with the laws of the Kyrgyz Republic and its international commitments.

The Mission has not identified any violations of national election law.

The Mission recognises the election of deputies to the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic as open, free and legitimate.

The Mission notes that the past election of deputies to the Jogorku Kenesh is an important step towards further developing democratic processes in the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Mission congratulates the people of the Kyrgyz Republic on the successful holding of the election and wishes them further success in strengthening independence and sovereignty and promoting sustainable socioeconomic development.