Less than one month is left before the elections and the election campaign is in full swing. Since September 4, political parties started campaigning and the entire country is with interest following the well-known and new political forces. On September 9, 2020, the CEC by lottery determined the sequence of political parties in the ballot papers, approved the form and text of the ballot papers. In the regions there are trainings for the members of precinct election commissions on electoral legislation, training sessions the for representatives of NGOs and media on transparency in campaign financing, as well as sessions on handling the electoral disputes for the representatives of NGOs.
Information resource of the Central election Commission "Talapker"
Money undoubtedly plays an important role in the electoral process, as it opens up opportunities for parties, while the absence of funds can be an obstacle to full-fledged participation in the electoral race. It is very important therefore that the financial factor does not become a decisive one for the outcome of an election where the richest wins the elections. That is why the regulation of electoral campaign financing was designed to ensure equal playing field by limiting contributions and imposing spending limits, as well as by disclosing the sources of campaign financing and spending so that the voter can make an informed choice of the party, including on the basis of information on the campaign financing.
With the help of UNDP and the German government, the CEC has created an electronic platform “Talapker” (“Candidate”), which contains all information about political parties participating in the elections, including detailed information about campaign financing by posting scanned copies of the financing reports that political parties submit to the CEC as well as information provided by banks where parties open their accounts for the electoral funds.
On “Talapker” platform each voter can find all data on the political parties - general information about a political party, the list of candidates nominated by the party, political party program and the report on campaign financing. This is a unique source of comprehensive information about a political party and will help voters make an informed choice. In addition, journalists were trained in using the resource and analyzing the information posted on the platform, which allows them to create interesting and informative materials to provide quality information on the political parties to the public.
The system will be further improved to allow political parties to submit reports electronically, while the CEC will conduct preliminary analysis of submitted reports in terms of the acceptability of funding sources by checking the information with other governmental databases. In addition, consultative support is provided to the CEC on the drafting of normative and legal acts governing campaign financing.
Training on using of biometric voter identification equipment
The introduction of new technologies not only increases the credibility of the electoral process, but it also poses a challenge for the electoral administration in terms of training thousands of employees in the voter registration procedures and proper use of the equipment. During the previous electoral cycles, biometric voter registration and identification on the day of voting were performed by the employees of the State Registration Service, which is a governmental agency; as a result of the reform, since 2020 this function is assigned to an independent body - the Central Election Commission (CEC), which hires biometric voter identification operators. With the support from UNDP and the Government of Japan, more than 7,000 biometric voter identification operators are receiving resident training using specially designed training videos and manuals.
Improving the cybersecurity of the electoral process
Considering the high level of digitalization, UNDP is supporting the Central Election Commission to strengthen cybersecurity of the electoral process by providing advice aimed at detecting and eliminating vulnerabilities in the information and communication systems. In addition, a course on cyberhygiene was developed for the members of the precinct election commissions to help them learn simple rules of conduct in the Internet and in using the equipment that will help to reduce cybersecurity risks. It has long ago been proven that the human factor is a cause of 90 % of cybercidents, so training the members of the election commissions in the rules of hygiene in the Internet and in the use of equipment will help increase the awareness of behavior and prevent careless behavior that could have serious consequences for the electoral process.
Cooperation of the CEC with Facebook on political advertising in the network
Social networks continues to play an important role in the election campaign. Due to the absence of international standards regulating this issue, Facebook introduces its own policies adopted to ensure transparency of funding for paid political advertising and to provide voters with full information about the sources of funding for such advertising, which undoubtedly helps voters make an informed choice.
The CEC had an online meeting with the Facebook representatives organized by the UNDP office in the Kyrgyz Republic. The purpose of the meeting of the CEC with these officials was to discuss the posting of political advertising, its labeling and determination of the source of payment for its display on Facebook. The meeting was attended by the Chairwoman of the CEC Ms. Nurzhan Shayldabekova, the member of the CEC working group on information and campaigning Ms. Gulnara Dzhurabayeva and the head of the CEC information department Mr. Ruslan Izrekov. From the Facebook side, the meeting was attended by the Public Policy Manager Kavita Kanhi and the head of the Facebook election integrity department Ms. Natasha Jog.
During the meeting the Facebook representatives told about their policy on the identification of users by the documentary identity proof, which allows conclusive knowledge which person is registered under a certain account. All political advertising is added to the Advertising Library related to public issues, elections or politics, which is available at www.facebook.com/ads/library/report, at the top of the page one has to select Kyrgyzstan. At the moment, the library for Kyrgyzstan has 1101 ads for the total cost of USD 7,357. The library also displays information about individuals and parties who paid for the advertisement.
The CEC Chairwoman Ms. N. Shayldabekova highlighted the importance of cooperation with Facebook: “We greatly appreciate the start of our cooperation with the Facebook representatives. The measures taken by Facebook to verify the accounts which are the sources of political advertising are an important contribution of Facebook to the cleanness of the elections. This offers an opportunity to track the transparency of the funding of political advertising of a party or candidates. Parties, in turn, can undergo the verification procedure which helps them to fight with fake accounts.” This meeting between the CEC and Facebook representatives attracted a lot of attention from the media and some of them asked the CEC Chairwoman for a detailed interview.
Assistance in ensuring migrants’ electoral rights
While the introduction of biometric identification in Kyrgyzstan helped increase the confidence in elections and the credibility of results, it has also created additional barriers for the Kyrgyz citizens living abroad in implementing their voting rights. Many migrants who provide significant support to their relatives and friends living in Kyrgyzstan and through whom the country receives significant financial support, which accounts for a significant part of the national budget, experience difficulties in exercising their voting rights because they were unable to submit their biometric data. Most migrants work intensively and are unable to visit the embassy or a consulate located far from their place of work. With the support from UNDP, the International Organization for Migration and the German government, the CEC has created “mobile groups for voter registration abroad”, consisting of the representatives of the CEC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Registration Service, who travel to places where Kyrgyz citizens compactly reside abroad, carry out awareness raising activities on how to implement their voting rights; they also collect biometric data and provide consular registration so that citizens can be included in the voter list. It was planned that the mobile groups would travel to other countries as early as in May, but the coronavirus pandemic made corrections, closing borders and cancelling regular flights have affected the group departure schedules. Nevertheless, as soon as the first opportunity appeared, from August 22 to 28, 2020 the mobile group flew to Turkey, where it visited Bursa, Izmir, Bodrum, Antalya, Ankara and Istanbul. Since September 3, the mobile group has also been working in the USA and in Italy since August 6. On September 9, mobile groups travelled to Russia and Kazakhstan.
With the support of UNDP, the IOM and the Swiss government, each week the CEC conducts online meetings with the leaders of diasporas who further work with members of their associations and explain the procedure of biometric and consular registration to be included in the voter list abroad, as well as the procedure for changing the electoral address from the one in Kyrgyzstan to the electoral address abroad for those who are already included in the voter list at the place of registration on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Also, a wide information campaign is carried out by distributing a series of social videos, information posters and booklets, launching chat bots in the social media, developing special information pages on the electoral rights of migrants in the IOM application for migrants and on the CEC website.