Statement by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's Observer Mission on monitoring the preparations for and holding of a referendum on the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic
11 April 2021
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 referendum on the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which took place on 11 April 2021.
The Mission was headed by SCO Deputy Secretary-General Zhang Haizhou. It included members of legislative and election bodies, as well as diplomats from 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 referendum on the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic is as open, transparent and democratic as possible.
1. Activities of the Mission
The Mission performed its functions in accordance 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 referendum, members of the Mission visited a number of district electoral commissions in Bishkek and the Chui Region to assess their readiness for the referendum.
The host party created the necessary conditions for the Mission to monitor the preparations for the referendum and the voting process. It provided the Mission with exhaustive information on the campaign for 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 referendum on the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic.
On the voting day, 11 April 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 and the Chui Region. At these stations they saw observers from public associations, NGOs and several international organisations and the media.
Accredited observers from the SCO Secretariat also visited the polling station at the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the People's Republic of China.
As a result, the Mission conducted a cross-section survey of the voting process in Kyrgyzstan and also monitored the procedure in Kyrgyzstan's mission aboard.
The Mission has not received any complaints or remarks regarding the electoral process.
2. Legislative framework for the referendum
The Constitution 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. Use of up-to-date information and digital technologies
At the referendum, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic used its information systems and services designated to facilitate information processes during the referendum.
The voters were identified by their biometric and personal data using automatic ballot boxes, which made it possible to count the votes automatically and promptly transmit the results to the Central Election Commission's server. The polling stations had a sufficient number of such ballot boxes; specifically, voting premises were equipped with special booths, monitors and boxes for the observers to exercise visual control. Voting at the referendum was conducted using 2,483 automatic ballot boxes installed at the local commissions.
The website of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic (shailoo.gov.kg) provided comprehensive coverage of the Central Election Commission's (CEC) operation and supplied full information on the progress of the referendum.
The tizme.gov.kg government portal posted voter lists by polling stations, districts, cities and the republic.
The Single Voter Register information system ensured Kyrgyz citizens' right to take part in the nationwide vote.
The website of the manual count reports, automatic ballot box scans and biometric identification presented the scans of the manual count, primary and final reports of the voters' identification and ballot boxes by territorial (TEC) and precinct election commissions (PEC).
The Complaints and Letters Register at the CEC website updated information on all comments and complaints received in the course of voting as well as on the outcome of their consideration by election commissions and courts, and provided the scans of such applications and complaints, relevant decisions and court rulings.
There was also a common website to verify the number of a polling station through sending text messages from mobile phones; Kyrgyz citizens could monitor voting results via social networks and mobile applications as well.
4. Public health safety during the vote
Public health measures amid the coronavirus pandemic included:
• Complete disinfection of the voting premises the day before and on the day of the referendum;
• 1.5-2 metres' distance marks between the voters were made;
• All voters had their temperature taken at the entrance to the polling stations;
• Sanitizers were installed at the entrance to the polling stations; members of the election commissions had the necessary personal protective equipment.
5. Referendum on the Draft Law On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic
Law No. 31 of the Kyrgyz Republic dated 12 March 2021 set a referendum (nationwide vote) for 11 April 2021 throughout the entire territory of the Kyrgyz Republic. The referendum dealt with the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. Article 3 of the just-mentioned Law sets forth the following wording of a question included in voting ballots: "To approve the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, submitted by the Supreme Council (Jogorku Kenesh) of the Kyrgyz Republic for the referendum (nationwide vote):
Under Article 37.3 of the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on the Appointment of a Referendum, the minimum turnout for a referendum to be valid is set at 30 percent.
6. Referendum campaign
Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic wishing to take part in the referendum campaign could establish pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question. The above-mentioned groups were able to apply for registration at the Central Election Commission. In turn, the Central Election Commission's officials registered the relevant referendum campaign group in no more than ten days. Following registration, pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question appointed their authorised representatives for financial issues. After the registration of the authorised representatives, pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question set up their own campaign funds for financing their campaign to initiate the referendum and for conducting the referendum campaign.
Consequently, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic received 15 requests on registering pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question. Members of 12 pressure groups supported the referendum's question, and members of three other pressure groups opposed it.
The campaign dealing with the referendum's question ended 24 hours prior to the voting day.
The campaign on the referendum's question was conducted using the following methods:
— on television channels and radio stations and in printed publications;
— during mass events, including meetings, conferences, public debates and discussions, rallies, demonstrations and street rallies under the current legislation;
— by publishing and disseminating printed, audio-video and other campaign material.
At the same time, television channels, radio stations and printed publications provided equal opportunities to pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question for conducting their campaigns.
Pressure groups whose members either supported or opposed the referendum's question also had the right to broadcast free of charge on state television channels and radio stations.
The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic also published the draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic in the ErkinToo newspaper with a print run of 1.1 million copies, as well as an online version of the Draft Law of the Kyrgyz Republic On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic on the Commission's official website with a view to informing referendum participants.
7. Conditions for disabled voters
Conditions and access for the equal and free exercise of constitutional rights of people with disabilities were created throughout the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Central Election Commission did a lot to ensure the implementation of the voting rights of the disabled. In particular, ballot papers have been available in Braille since 2015, and informational material has been prepared in special formats.
There were special "call buttons" just in case any of the disabled voters found it necessary to call election commission members to help them get into a polling station.
The local authorities prepared the polling stations in such a way that they were suitable for people with disabilities, putting ramps in place at 83.4 percent of the polling stations. A survey was also conducted aimed at complying with the requirements for accessibility for the disabled to ensure that they are able to take part in the voting.
According to a map of needs they compiled, there are 18,465 voters with disabilities in the republic.
To guarantee the election rights of the disabled, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic published the Draft Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, with transitional provisions, in Braille.
All of the copies were distributed among the organisations dealing with people with disabilities.
8. Referendum preparations
All of the 2,483 polling stations across the republic carried out preparations for the referendum, and 48 polling stations were opened in foreign countries to ensure the voting rights of Kyrgyz citizens residing or on visits abroad.
Election commissions were provided with the necessary equipment for holding the referendum.
A total of 183 international observers from 31 countries, representing 10 election bodies, 10 international organisations and 16 diplomatic missions monitored the election. Foreign journalists were accredited to cover the referendum.
In accordance with Article 14 of the Constitutional Law on the Appointment of a Referendum, and in order to protect voters' rights, a list of voters was compiled for each electoral district. The total number of voters amounted to 3,606,201, including 1,725,849 men and 1,880,352 women, or 47.86 percent and 52.14 percent, respectively.
9. Main results
The Mission notes that the referendum was carried out in an open and transparent manner. Civil society representatives took an active part in the referendum, and voters were provided with favourable conditions for making an independent and conscious choice.
The Mission states that the referendum on the Draft Law On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic was held in accordance with the current legislation and the international commitments of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Mission believes that the referendum on the Draft Law On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic was open, free and legitimate.
The Mission states that the referendum on the Draft Law On the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic was a major step in the further development of democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is grateful to the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic and other agencies of the republic for their assistance with ensuring the operation of the Mission in accordance with its objectives.
The Mission congratulates the people of the Kyrgyz Republic with the successful holding of the referendum and wishes them every success in implementing a new course towards stronger independence and sovereignty and sustainable socioeconomic development.
The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
11 April 2021