Statement by the SCO Observer Mission on monitoring the preparations for and the holding of the early presidential election and the referendum in the Kyrgyz Republic

Statement by the SCO Observer Mission on monitoring the preparations for and the holding of the early presidential election and the referendum in the Kyrgyz Republic

At the invitation of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) (hereinafter referred to as the Mission) monitored the preparations for and the holding of the early election for the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the referendum on determining the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic, which took place on 10 January 2021.

The Mission was headed by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov. It included members of legislative bodies and diplomats of the SCO member countries.

The Mission regards the invitation of international observers as an indication of the Kyrgyz Republic's desire to ensure that the presidential election and the referendum in the Kyrgyz Republic are open, transparent and democratic to the maximum degree.

1. Activities of the Mission

The Mission performed its functions in line with the Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referenda, observing the principle of political neutrality, objectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states and in strict conformity with the national legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On the eve of the election and the referendum, members of the Mission visited a number of district electoral commissions in Bishkek to assess their readiness for the election and the referendum.

The host party created the necessary conditions for the Mission to monitor the preparations for and the conduct of the electoral process. It provided the Mission with exhaustive information on the campaigns for the election and the referendum.

All conclusions of the Mission are based on the personal observations of its members and factual material collected on the eve and on the day of the early election for the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the referendum on determining the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On the voting day, 10 January 2021, the Mission members arrived at the

polling stations at 8 am and were present during the preparation of ballot papers and automatic ballot-counting boxes.

Mission members visited about 50 polling stations in Bishkek. At these stations they saw the authorised representatives of the presidential candidates, as well as observers from political parties and public associations, and representatives of several international organisations and the media.

The authorised representatives of the candidates and observers did not send any complaints or remarks regarding the electoral process to the Mission.

2. Legislative framework for the election and the referendum

The Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Law on the Appointment of a Referendum (nationwide voting), and other regulations form the basis of the legislative framework of the Kyrgyz Republic.

3. Innovations in the electoral legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic

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

The main objectives of the strategy are to prevent violations of electoral legislation, improve the protection of citizens' voting rights and to reinforce the principles of free and democratic elections.

In addition, between 2017 and 2020, a number of amendments have been made to the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, the laws on the election of deputies of local Keneshes (legislative assemblies), on local self-government, on the status of deputies of local Keneshes, on the status of the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, and on the status of the City of Osh.

Constitutional Law No. 116 dated 8 August 2019 Amending the Constitutional Laws of the Kyrgyz Republic on Elections of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic and On Referendums stipulates amendments and additions designed to preclude the abuse of administrative resources. It also improved and augmented the chapter on information support in the election process.

Seeking to seriously improve the election process and introduce liability for violating election laws, the Central Election Commission initiated in July 2020 the amendment of Kyrgyz legislation, or more precisely, the codes of the Kyrgyz Republic on offences and violations, the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Code of Administrative Responsibility of the Kyrgyz Republic, and several other laws.

In October 2020, amendments were made to the aforementioned Constitutional Law with regard to the return of the election deposit.

A number of measures have been taken to improve the organisation of elections, in particular, by extending the deadline for adjusting electoral registration and introducing an online format for submitting information on changes of voter's address and personal data via the Voter's Account on the government website.

4. Use of modern information and digital technologies

During the election and the referendum, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic used information systems and services aimed at the implementation of information processes during the election period, the collection, compilation and display of information on voter turnout, as well as on preliminary voting results.

Voters were identified by their biometric and personal data using electronic ballot boxes, which supported automatic counting and prompt delivery of voting results to the CEC server. The polling stations were equipped with the required number of automated control systems, in particular, special equipment (booths, monitors, boxes) for visual control by observers.

The Kyrgyz Republic CEC website (shailoo.gov.kg) comprehensively covered the activities of the CEC, as well as provided complete information on the progress of the election.

The state web portal Tizme (tizme.gov.kg) posted voter lists by polling station, district, city and the republic as a whole.

The Unified Voter Registration System provided guarantees for the rights of citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic to participate in the election.

The web resource for reviewing manual counting protocols, electronic ballot box feeds and biometric identifications displayed scanned versions of manual counting protocols, primary and final voter identification reports and results from electronic ballot boxes at TECs and PECs.

The Talapker website (talapker.shailoo.gov.kg) displayed basic candidate information, the candidates' election programmes and their campaign funds.

The Register of Complaints and Requests on the CEC website provided information on all requests and complaints received during the elections and the results of being reviewed by election commissions and courts, with attached scanned copies of the requests and complaints, the decisions made, and the judicial acts issued.

The country complied with the requirement for mandatory publication, on the official CEC website, of each presidential candidate's election programme and their financial statements indicating the source of funding and all items of expenditure.

Several webinars and educational videos on holding the election were also provided.

A web portal was developed on where the polling station number could be found by sending a text from a mobile phone; citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic could also follow the progress of the election campaign on social media and mobile apps.

In order to ensure sanitary and epidemiological safety and protect people's health during the preparations and holding of the early election of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic on 10 January 2021, the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic, together with the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic, developed an "Algorithm of action to ensure sanitary and epidemiological safety and protection of people's health from COVID-19 during the preparation and holding of the election and referendum in the Kyrgyz Republic on 10 January 2021."

In order to comply with the sanitary and epidemiological rules during the preparation and conduct of the election, the members of election commissions were provided with the necessary personal protective equipment.

Hand sanitisers were available at polling stations, and the premises were regularly disinfected.

5. Candidates for President of the Kyrgyz Republic

The nomination period for the position of President of the Kyrgyz Republic (KR) was completed on 14 November 2020. The KR Central Election Commission (CEC) received 65 nominations for President including eight women and 57 men. Of this number, 64 were self-nominated and one was submitted by a political party.

On 19 November 2020, the KR CEC rejected 12 candidates. Nine did not submit documents indicating official language proficiency, and three candidates had unexpired convictions. Six candidates submitted withdrawal forms. The KR CEC reviewed the nomination applications and published information on 47 candidates.

On 12 December 2020, the CEC registered 18 presidential candidates who submitted signatures and paid the electoral fees:

1. Sadyr Zhaparov

2. Kanatbek Isayev

3. Myktybek Arstanbek

4. Klara Sooronkulova

5. Imamidin Tashov

6. Rashid Tagayev

7. Abdil Segizbayev

8. Adakhan Madumarov

9. Aimen Kasenov

10. Ulukbek Kochkorov

11. Zhenishbek Baiguttiyev

12. Eldar Abakirov

13. Kursan Asanov

14. Arstanbek Abdyldayev

15. Ravshan Dzheyenbekov

16. Baktybek Kalmamatov

17. Babyrzhan Tolbayev

18. Kanybek Imanaliyev

Rashid Tagayev withdrew his name from the list of nominees for President.

6. Referendum to determine the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On 10 December 2020, under the Law of the KR on the Appointment of a Referendum (nationwide vote), Acting President of the Kyrgyz Republic and Speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh Talant Mamytov signed the law on the appointment of the referendum on determining the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Under the adopted law, the referendum must take place throughout the territory of the KR. Voters in the referendum were to choose one of the following forms of government: 1) a presidential republic; 2) a parliamentary republic; 3) none of the above.

7. Election campaign

Under the law of the KR and the regulations on election campaigns during early presidential elections, the election campaign started 30 days prior to the election and stopped the day before the voting.

The presidential candidates conducted election campaigns on equal terms (via media and public events while observing social distancing and sanitary-epidemiological requirements through issuing and disseminating promotional materials and other formats under the domestic law). In addition, central television networks broadcast programmes on the regulation of the election campaign.

8. Conditions for the disabled voters

Conditions and access for the equal and free exercise of constitutional rights of people with disabilities were created throughout the KR.

The Central Election Commission did much to ensure the implementation of the voting rights of the disabled. In part, it prepared information materials in special formats.

The CEC website published audio materials for people with disabilities to explain how they could find their names on voting lists, on the voting procedure, and on voting rights abroad. It also carried a video clip on implementing the voting rights of disabled people. Special "call buttons" were available for helping the disabled to enter the polling stations.

Each polling station had a voting booth with a special sticker for the disabled helping them to fill out the ballot. It included a magnifying glass and a Braille stencil. The CEC set up a call centre which included operators with disabilities. Polling stations were equipped with ramps.

9. Preparations for the elections and the referendum

In Resolution No. 263 of 24 October 2020, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic, determined 10 January 2021 as the date for an early presidential election in the Kyrgyz Republic.

On 11 December 2020, Acting President of the Kyrgyz Republic Talant Mamytov signed the law on holding a referendum to determine the form of government of the KR on 10 January 2021.

The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic drafted a schedule for main organisational and practical events in order to prepare and hold an early presidential election in the republic. Six working groups have been set up for this purpose.

Election commissions were provided with the necessary equipment for holding the elections. Signs and calendars were displayed at all district election commissions.

The CEC established 2,428 voting stations throughout the country. To ensure the voting rights of Kyrgyz citizens residing or visiting abroad, the CEC set up 48 voting stations in foreign countries. In total, it established 2,476 district election commissions.

A total of 333 international observers from 44 countries, representing 34 international organisations monitored the election. About 100 foreign journalists were accredited to cover the presidential election and the referendum.

In cooperation with the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry, the CEC invited international organisations and central election commissions from foreign states (the CIS Executive Committee, the OSCE ODIHR, the SCO, the Turkic Council and the OIC), and international election associations from Europe and Asia and other parts of the world to monitor the election as international observers.

In addition, invitations were sent to representatives of international organisations, embassies and consular offices accredited in the KR, as well as representatives of parliaments and inter-parliamentary associations.

The Speaker of the Jogorku Kenesh invited to the election representatives from the CIS Parliamentary Assembly, the CSTO, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Turkic Council Parliamentary Assembly.

10. Main results

The events of the election campaign were held in the open and covered in detail by the media in strict conformity with the KR law.

All registered presidential candidates were provided with equal conditions for promoting events regardless of their party affiliation or political views. All stages of the election campaign were covered in line with current legislation and the candidates' programmes were published, which demonstrates the openness and transparency of the election process.

The Mission notes that the elections were competitive, open and transparent. Civil society representatives took an active part in the elections. Voters were provided with favourable conditions for making an independent and conscious choice.

The Mission states that the early presidential election and the referendum to determine the form of government in the KR were held in accordance with current law and the international commitments of the KR.

The Mission did not record any violations of the national election legislation.

The Mission believes that the early presidential election in the KR and the referendum on the form of government in the republic were open, free and legitimate.

The Mission states that the early presidential election in the KR and the referendum on the form of government in the republic were a major step in the further development of democracy in the KR.

The Mission congratulates the people of the KR with the successful holding of the early presidential election and the referendum and wishes them new successes in implementing a course towards stronger independence and sovereignty and sustainable socio-economic development.

The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation