Fair and True: How to hold elections and do it right

25 Feb 2016

 Photo Credit: www.kabar.kg

In Kyrgyzstan, the two previous rounds of elections – in 2005 and 2010 – resulted in civil unrest, with complaints regarding lack of transparency and restricted freedoms.

As a result, the country leadership committed themselves to holding transparent and fair elections in October 2015.

When the government approached us to ask for support in conducting the upcoming elections, we thought it would be a straightforward process.  After all, UNDP has long-term experience with supporting fair elections in many countries around the world; how challenging could it be?

But the process turned out much more complicated than we could have ever imagined.

First, we conducted a needs assessment to identify electoral needs. The process showed us our plan of action: to build the capacity of Central Electoral Commission, train voters, and strengthen national capacity to resolve potential disputes.

We also decided to support the government’s intentions to introduce modern information-communication electoral technologies (ICT). The equipment would automate voters’ identification process on Election Day in order to prevent multiple voting.

Next, we began rallying together many different donors in order to make sure we had enough budget to fully realize our vision.

Danish and Swiss governments generously provided financial support, and UNDP poured in core resources as well. But that wasn’t nearly enough to cover it. That’s where government of Japan came in – with a pledge of US$ 6 million.

The public procurement process was a serious challenge, due to the tight timeframe – but with the support of our procurement office in Copenhagen, we did it!

Yet our story doesn’t end there. When the first shipment of 3,000 sets of voter identification equipment arrived (including laptops, thermoprinters and fingerprint scanners), we thought that would be enough. A quick test by the Kyrgyz government showed us we were wrong. We needed another 3,000 sets.

So began a new round of raising funds and arranging procurement. Between UNDP and the government of Japan, we had enough funds for 2,000 sets – the Kyrgyz government contributed the rest of the funds (US$ 760,000 to be exact) for the remaining 1,000. We had 45 days to go through another public procurement process – it was challenging, but we successfully jumped through that hoop as well!

The end result was worth it all. Seeing the results from some 2,400 polling stations, as the numbers came in, was a dream. We waited nervously for any news of technical malfunction of our 6,000 sets but none came.

The State Registry Service did report 144 minor technical issues, but they were addressed locally.

It was this quote by Kyrgyz Republic President Atambaev that made us most proud: “This is one of the happiest days of my life”, he said. “I’ve lived to see clean and fair elections come true in my country”.

Similarly, Ainura Usupbekova, the executive director of national NGO “Taza Shailoo” (stands for “Clean Elections”) stated: “The biometrics allowed us to prevent mass falsifications during the Parliamentary Elections in 2015”.

Many Kyrgyz people shared the same feelings. All parties accepted the results of the elections. It is now time to celebrate the victory of newly blossoming Parliamentary Democracy in our country. The future looks bright.

Erkinbek Kasybekov (Assistant Resident Representative) erkinbek.kasybekov@undp.org

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Kyrgyzstan 
Go to UNDP Global