Louise Chamberlain, UNDP RR

Excellency Ms. Nurzhan Shaildabekova, Chair of the Central Elections Commission,

Excellency Vice Speaker, Mr. Mirlan Bakirov,

Excellency Head of the President’s Office, Mr. Dosaly Esenaliev,

Distinguished representatives of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic;

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! It is a great privilege for me to be part of today’s celebration, and I thank you for inviting us to this important commemoration.

On behalf of UNDP in the Kyrgyz Republic and of the UN system in Kyrgyzstan I would like to offer our heartiest congratulations to the Central Elections Commission on its 30th anniversary!

I want to begin by commending the Central Elections Commission and Mdm Shaildabekova for the outstanding cooperation we enjoy on the elections and strengthening the democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic. We greatly appreciate and are inspired by your personal leadership, trust and devotion.

Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance because political decisions are made directly by citizens. In our experience, elections management bodies gain strengths with experience. In this sense, the 30th celebration is an important milestone in Kyrgyzstan’s electoral history. The progressive transition towards a parliamentary democracy over the past decade is remarkable, including constitutional reform in 2010 and 2015 and 2017 parliamentary and presidential elections, which for the first time were largely recognized by both national and international observers as being peaceful, fair and transparent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On average, UNDP globally is providing electoral assistance to about 60 countries a year, including in fragile and post-conflict settings. We are very proud to have contributed, together with the support of Governments of Japan, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany to Kyrgyzstan’s progress on free and fair elections, most recently in 2015 and 2017 by improving the system of electronic voter registration and identification based on biometrics, and helping to enhance capacities of election administration bodies to foster electoral integrity and gain credibility.

Importantly, without the political will of the government, as well as the competent and skillful management of the CEC, these achievements could not have taken place.

The parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2015 – largely recognized as free and fair, have created a more responsive parliamentary system, building the foundation for improved governance and rule of law, gender equality, and human rights. With the first peaceful transfer of power, the 2017 Presidential Elections followed suit by cultivating trust while reducing post-election tensions. The adoption by Government of a new Electoral Reform Strategy ahead of the 2020 Parliamentary elections serves to solidify the progress made.

Notwithstanding this tremendous progress, which has cultivated citizens’ trust in electoral processes, there are significant remaining challenges. I would like to briefly highlight three key areas where sustained reforms are needed:

-          Firstly, there is room for improved integrity and inclusion: Despite special measures, women, youth, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in politics and elected office. The recent introduction of the 30% quota for women in local councils is a critically important affirmative action, and more support is needed to help the CEC and government to break the trend of diminishing representation of women in local politics. Women make up half of this country’s population and Kyrgyzstan has many competent female leaders who could stand to be elected and represented. Another key challenge will be to ensure that people with disabilities and migrant workers to other countries can participate in elections.

-          Secondly, the freedom and secrecy of the ballot needs to be protected. Concerns around misuse of public resources, pressures on voters, and vote-buying were highlighted in past Election Observation reports as well as the UN’s needs assessment. Tackling these issues requires not only comprehensive civic education and better law enforcement, but also a national awareness campaign to affirm voter rights and increase resilience to corruption.

-          Thirdly, there is a need to prevent electoral processes from contributing to conflict and violence. It is important that responses are informed by evidence, and to mitigate conflict through an early warning / early response system, and to ensure that dispute resolution mechanisms are transparent.

Excellencies, UNDP together with other entities of the UN system stands ready to continue working with the Central Elections Commission and other key stakeholders in furthering national reforms in these areas and consolidating parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

Again, I congratulate the Chair, previous CEC leader Tuigunaly Abdraimov, members of CEC  and the whole staff of the CEC on its 30th anniversary! We wish you a long and healthy life; new achievements in the name of democracy; and prosperity for Kyrgyzstan and its people!

Thank you for your attention!

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