According to Sergei Masaulov, president of the Center for Perspective Studies, “it is important that nothing unexpected has happened It is clear that he was the leader, it is clear that the leader would have won even without the traditional mess with voter lists during our elections. Actually, they should have solved the problem with voter lists during the past 20 years. We could prevent such a large number of violations.
“As for the voting process, it was not very pleasant to again see groups of students at polling stations; it seemed like they were forced to vote. In addition, members of the PEC did not mark my thumb, because at that time they were busy with letting a whole group of those very students into the room of the PEC. Of course, such things question the legitimacy of some of the results. But it is impossible to doubt the main result: it is clear that he was the leader, and he would have won without any of these tricks.”
Sergei Masaulov also noted, “No new technologies were found in the violations, because they have been working for many years and are used during every election in Kyrgyzstan. If we take the term “election” in its Western understanding, we will come to the conclusion that this term is rather conditional in our context. For us, election is something different, and it is held in a different way. From this perspective, the technology is a routine practice. I do not remember any election in the Kyrgyz Republic without the use of a whole bunch of these so-called technologies. Perhaps except for the one in autumn 1991, when the first President was elected, and everything was more or less clear. During our elections, there was always a plan which prescribed where, in what area, how many votes and for whom to vote. This plan was always worked out in the White House, in a study which we all know about. Everything was done in accordance with the plan, although some improvisation was admitted.
“In this case, it seems to me that there was a plan of percentage, and, actually, it was implemented.
“It is clear that each headquarters has a plan. It is clear that if the headquarters is working properly, this plan is based on real calculation of possible votes at polling stations. In Kyrgyzstan, many things depend on the position of one or another member of election commissions.
“I have said many times that 52 per cent is also a victory, and there is no need to win absolute majority because, in this case, the whole machine begins to work: local administrative bodies begin to work more intensively, and districts are competing among themselves for a better result. And then the people who sit in the CEC, by all means, begin to temper this enthusiasm, trying to reduce that percentage. Sometimes they fail, and the result is a very large percentage. From my point of view, if, in Kyrgyzstan, they ever create environment in which people’s opinion and the real vote are taken into account, it would create a stronger country than we have now,”.
Assessing the CEC and the quality of its work, Sergei Masaulov said, “The CEC is just the CEC, there is nothing outstanding in it. The Central Election Commission should work like a machine, and in fact that is what they were trying to do. A direct claim against the CEC concerns voter lists. PECs, their training and work were not perfect either. But, on the other hand, who will then carry out the general line, if not members of precinct election commissions? It has always been like that. So, what are the claims to the CEC? The CEC is always dependent on the current power authorities.”
During the interview Masaulov also commented on statements and actions of those candidates who lost, saying, “If the procedures of the formal claims worked properly, perhaps the problem would have been solved in court. But since there is a conviction that the court will do nothing, of course, they are beginning to threaten, using our traditional form – protests. It was also expected. Another thing is that I have an impression that there is no energy or strength to mobilize large groups of people and to oppose a particular result obtained. This is a novelty, because it was assumed that there would be more protests. It seems to me that gradually all will come to naught. Now everything will be solved through agreement. And there will be an agreement, I am sure. This agreement will end this conflict, because each of those who now are mobilizing people should get some kind of political perspective. As soon as they see the future and, above all, the prospect of belonging to government agencies, it will all be over,”
Ishenbai Abdurazakov, a social activist, assessed the election as follows, “The election took place. There is no doubt about the favorite candidate; he scored an impressive percentage of the vote. Yes, of course, there were annoying organizational flaws, but in my opinion, they were not massive, and therefore there was insufficient evidence to call into question the election results. Of course, it would be very nice if these flaws were smaller. An ideal variant is to hold elections without such flaws. But it is too early to hope for that in our country. Yet we hope that eventually, such a popular vote will be organized better.
“During this election, there was less pressure of administrative resources, although at some places it was probably used. We have a lot of people working in the different structures that began, by habit, to directly or indirectly exert pressure. But in my opinion, this was not a mass phenomenon, and it is the main difference between this election and previous ones.
“It is impossible to make definitive conclusions about the objectivity of this election. In general, it was fairly peaceful but with some drawbacks. We have a habit of saying that either everything was “clean” and perfect or that there were continuous abuse. But we should not say so, because the evidence suggests that, in general, the election was organized more or less well, although with some annoying flaws.
“The CEC had at least a good opportunity to prevent the mistakes that were made by their predecessors. Last year, the referendum passed in a hurry; but this year they had every opportunity to avoid these errors. But errors were made, and it is certainly annoying. Now they must learn this lesson. This is not the last election. I think that the Central Election Commission itself is not an eternal or permanent body, there may be new people over time. They have their employees who are obliged to do everything carefully and to avoid such events.
“Step by step we’re going to reach the dream of everyone, the dream of fair elections, without pressure, the dream of transparent calculation of votes. This is a fundamental question that we need to focus on and work out measures to prevent such errors in future.
“Some people were out of the voter lists, and this was a purely organizational violation. The fact that people couldn’t vote because their names were not in those lists is an organizational error. I do not think it was done deliberately for political purposes. If this is done for political purposes, it is very primitive, and it was possible to avoid this.
“As for political technologies, elections are elections, and they will be used depending on the vision of each candidate. Unfortunately, sometimes candidates throw dirt at one another, and we could see it during this election. There is a presumption of innocence. It was very difficult for voters to figure out what was truth and what was falsehood. But now the main problem is to prevent those protest rallies from becoming massive. People are already tired of it, people want to live in peace, work hard and solve their problems. We must focus on that.”
Speaking about candidates-losers, Abdurazakov said, “It concerns the culture of each person. Probably they do not have the courage to admit defeat. How does one put the election results into question when there is a huge difference: 62 percent versus 15? If there was a confrontation of 50 percent versus 49 percent, it would be reasonable to raise such a question. And now, with such a difference, who will believe in their arguments that we should reconsider the vote and hold a new election…
“In some places, people were active, and the selected candidate was more or less well known. Some people liked the program of this candidate, although the statements of a strategic nature must be treated very cautiously. We must, above all, show the people why this or that fact is useful for the national interests of our country, and not just say: “we did so and so.” We need evidence. But mass understanding is mass understanding: people found something positive. But then there is no need to hurry and take some forward-looking steps, when people are not yet convinced of the correctness of these steps,”
According to Anar Musabayeva, a political analyst, “we can say that the election was held. On the one hand, the election results were previously expected, but on the other hand there were also unexpected moments. For example, southern candidates expected higher voter turnout.
“All the international observers declare that there were not massive violations of procedural points, however, we see that there were violations. They were registered (about ballot box stuffing and so on).
“But the biggest problems were associated with the work of the CEC. First, the compilation of voter lists. Many voters could not vote, which in part gives rise to some distrust of the CEC, in spite of circumstances that can serve as an excuse (that the new procedure was used for the first time, and so on). Nevertheless, I think it is the fault of the Central Election Commission that many people did not find themselves in the lists. We cannot give exact figures, but judging by the information in the media and from people who participated in the voting, we can see that this problem occurred at many polling stations.
“Violations are always there, no matter which election is held. Many international observers also said this. But we must not discount the fact that special political technologies were used. I mean this game with the figures on the number of voters: they either increase or decrease and significantly. Again, the situation is unclear – why were people registered in the electronic system but they could not find themselves on the lists on election day? Of course, it gives some reason to talk about using a political technology, a kind of game of manipulating with votes. But probably there were not any direct violations that happened during previous elections. Now they are using technologies more skillfully, not to cause a mass discontent of the people. New delicate methods I would say…
“With respect to such a big difference in the percentage of votes between the candidates, first, of course, it was a significant effect of administrative resources. I repeat: this was not the direct use of administrative resources, as we used to see before. Indirect methods were used during this presidential campaign. It is clear that in our country, most employees of public institutions are in a sense dependent people. There were attempts to pressure them and attempts to exert pressure on election commissions by some indirect means. All observers say that there were no massive violations. However, the electoral process itself was associated with the use of various technologies of pressure, and in a sense, some manipulation. One could feel it.
“It seems to me that this gap can be explained by the situation in the south. There, many citizens could not vote. This is not a problem only with voter lists. It is also a result of last year’s conflict, when many people lost their documents and had no registration at the place of residence. This influenced the very low turnout of the electorate in the south, which is the main social base of the support group for the southern candidates.
“Nor can we overlook the fact that, in comparison with the parliamentary election in 2010, the presidential election process this year was marked by more or less clear consolidation of the northern political groups around the figure of Atambayev. There was a very strong influence from the media on people’s minds in the northern part of Kyrgyzstan. The electorate chose the best from the worse. I mean people decided not to vote for other candidates viewed as a threat to return to an authoritarian regime, strong presidential power, and so on,”
During the interview, Anar Musabayeva focused on the statements and actions of the defeated candidates, saying, “Non-recognition by the major opponents of the election results, who say that administrative resources were used, shows that the situation is quite fragile, despite the fact that the winner was determined in the first round. It all depends now on whether the leading politicians can negotiate, because the situation in the country is shaky. I think we have to rely on the common sense of politicians, if we hope for a better future.”
In turn, Marat Kazakpaev, a political scientist, believes that “there were violations, but this election was more transparent than the elections under Akayev and Bakiyev At those times, they used rude methods, members of the opposition were expelled, and the power openly did what it wanted to do. Virtually at all polling stations, there was massive ballot stuffing, brutal pressure by the criminals, who worked for the government. Administrative resource were used everywhere. This was not the case during this election, although, of course, there were separate manifestations of administrative resources in the form of violations on the part of the CEC. We cannot say that administrative resources were used during this election to the same extent as in the past.
“Nevertheless, I believe that we still have no culture of election. Many voters did not find their names on lists, and so there was such a configuration, when the north was formally active than the south. The fact is that many in the south simply did not vote, because many of them did not find their names on the lists, so the disturbance appeared. I believe that the CEC failed to cope with the tasks assigned. It is the fault of the CEC that the election was flawed.
“There were other violations, for example “carousel” voting in universities. I believe that we must no longer involve teachers during the election, because they become an instrument of administrative resources.”
Answering a question on how to interpret the statements and actions of the defeated candidates, Marat Kazakpaev said, “First of all, they are also our citizens. Second, we can understand them, especially Adakhan Madumarov and Kamchibek Tashiyev. They received suspiciously low percentage of votes. In principle, Atambaev had to go to the second round. But his team decided to ensure the victory after the first round. This can influence the situation in the country …
“It is desirable that Madumarov and Tashiyev use legal methods. It is important that their protests do not turn into a mass riots. Politicians should be responsible for their deeds and actions,” said Marat Kazakpaev.
Sheradil Baktygulov, an expert in public administration, gave his assessment of the presidential election. “Today we can already talk about how well the process of voting was organized, as well as about the election campaigns of the presidential candidates. Election campaigns of the presidential candidates followed the theories of business marketing. I mean they were more like advertising campaigns, when the product is advertised more than its properties. They have shown that a person has some advantages to become the head of the state. But concrete programs were not presented, candidates did not offer any concrete steps aimed at the country development.
“Organization of the election is another important moment. There has been great confusion with voter lists. Last year, during the referendum one could vote for the draft Constitution, regardless of residence registration (i.e., it was enough to come with a passport, get a ballot and vote). To date, we do not have a single database, even those citizens who are registered, for example, in the lists of the Ministry for Internal Affairs, could not find their names on the voter lists. This suggests that we need to create a single database, which would include citizens living in their permanent place of residence and temporary place of residence. All lists that exist in the country did not change the situation; even the fact that members of PECs visited households did not produce the expected results.
“All complained of administrative resources; but in fact, this is only an excuse. All conditions for a person to be left alone with the bulletin were created, and no one knows how people voted. But many our politicians and ordinary people still think: “we must follow the boss’s order.” Our practice has shown (especially during the last parliamentary election in October 2010) that people take money from representatives of the candidates or political parties, but when it comes to the election booth, no one guarantees that people will vote for this very candidate or political party. From this perspective, our elections are no better and no worse than elsewhere.
“What is the administrative resource? Administrative resources mean that a team leader of an organization, the head doctor, the rector, the dean of the faculty, the school principal received some instructions or an order from above to make their subordinates vote for a certain candidate. As I said, it no longer works, because a person can vote for whomever he has chosen, because he is alone in the voting booth. The problem is not only the administrative resource, but also that we are accustomed to vote the way someone has ordered us to do. It is a matter of bad habit, not the use of administrative resources.
“Administrative resource is when only one candidate is supported. Thus, they create favorable conditions for representatives of this candidate. The whole machine starts working for the promotion of this one candidate who is in power. Then it comes to the administrative resource.
“PECs and TECs were formed on the basis of other principles that were adopted last year in the Code “On Elections” (i.e., precinct and territorial commissions now have representatives of political parties). In this regard, it is not entirely correct to say that they use administrative resources, since they are nominated to be members of PECs from their parties, and they do not receive any money for that. Earlier, people who organized the process of voting at polling stations received money for that. Today the people who organize the voting process are party members, at least on paper.
“It is not so much an administrative resource, it is a “political party” resource, and there are many nuances that we must understand.”
Talking about whether the new CEC managed to implement its tasks, Sheradil Baktygulov said, “The election was held, they organized the voting process, and ballots were provided. From a formal point of view, the CEC fulfilled the main function of the organization for the voting electorate of the country. Criticism, of course, was caused by the lists of voters and its imperfections.
“It all depends on the method of compiling the voter lists. It seems there was a lack of coordination. The fact is that copies of the minutes from the polling stations were posted on the Internet as soon as the counting of votes was held and the minutes are signed. We cannot say that the CEC changed the results in favor of a candidate, because everything is exposed in real time.
“Regarding the violations, it is incorrect to say that it is the fault of the CEC, because the CEC is located in Bishkek. We have over two thousand precinct election commissions, and members of the PECs must be responsible for such things. From this perspective, the CEC worked well, some PECs worked well, while the other PECs worked poorly.
“The CEC sends guidance materials, and people implement them in their districts. And there are many people who are inventing different ways to increase the number of votes in favor of “their” candidate. It is a struggle, confrontation of different interests.
“New technologies were used, but again, in general, traditional set of technologies was used, which always existed, and we cannot say that this was an exclusive work of only political technologists in Kyrgyzstan. Even organizing rallies and demonstrations of disagreement is not a new technology,”
Sheradil Baktygulov also commented on the actions and statements of the defeated candidates: “We expected this. Voters knew that there would be such claims. Since 2005, it has become a tradition that the losing side always comes out with protest. It is a normal practice, which was first demonstrated in Ukraine and Georgia.
“We must begin to worry when such claims become the basis to propose the holding of new elections. We must begin to worry when five to 50 thousand people impose their views and demand to change the results of the election.
“They have the right, which is written in the Constitution, to assembly. They can express their opinions. But this does not mean that their opinion should be final. We have a large polarity of opinion; therefore we have to negotiate. The danger arises when negotiability will be lost. For example, it is impossible to negotiate with religious fanatics, and initially there is not even a question about how to negotiate. If there is such a situation, we must be careful, but again, there are other ways of working. The problem is that the conflict with far-reaching consequences is inevitable. This is not about the interests or ambitions of a politician. We are talking about the country and all the people, no matter how pathetic it may sound.
“People are just tired of the endless instability, insecurity and low standard of living. And when the question was whom to choose, people chose the best candidate to date. We must remember that before choosing the best of the best, we must find the most appropriate person, whose candidature corresponds to today’s realities of life. This choice was made.”
Pavel Dyatlenko, an expert in political affairs of the analytical center “Polis Asia”, PhD in history, also assessed the election. “This election was more open, competitive and free than the previous presidential election in July 2009. There are a number of technical issues related to the fact that the election was carried out in accordance with the new law “On elections of the President and Jogorku Kenesh.” The new law was not implemented before. Any new document has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some innovations were introduced during this election. Complaints, problems and misunderstanding are a normal thing in these circumstances. It takes time to adjust the law to reality.
“The second point is that the election was held by the new CEC, which was formed from representatives of different political parties who were interested in certain results. So the CEC faced different interests, and it definitely affected its work.
“It was an unusual situation for our country, when the administrative resources were used, but by different candidates. Before, we had the standard situation where the dominant candidate was using administrative resources. But this time was different: several candidates have used administrative resources. The candidates had equal opportunities, for example, contacts in the parliament, the executive branch, at the regional level of government, local authorities. Different candidates used the administrative resources. There was no monopoly on administrative resources. Therefore, its value is diminished, and its effectiveness is weakened.
“A huge number of candidates created political intrigues at the beginning of the campaign. But then they started refusing to participate in elections, even after the Central Election Commission published the ballots. As a result, six names of the candidates who refused to participate in elections were removed manually from the ballots. This suggests that the legislation does not rule on a specific date, after which candidates do not have the right to refuse to participate in the elections.
“If the law does not impose a strict ban on such activities, it is possible to delete the withdrawn candidates, because voting for a candidate who does not participate in the election is even a more severe violation. Citizens should choose from those candidates who are on the ballot. Since the law does not specify it, the Central Election Commission lawyers had to find the most reasonable answer to this question. In the theory of law there is a principle: “the law allows anything that is not prohibited.”
“For example, the US electoral legislation is very strict. Candidates are prohibited to take off their candidacy a certain period of time before the election. This prohibition is so strict that members of the CEC cannot even delete the name of a deceased candidate from the ballots. There have been incidents where voters came to vote for congressmen, senators or deputies of the future House of Representatives, and the ballot contained the names of the dead candidates. If the ballots are already printed, voters must vote for those names which they contain. The government cannot even scratch out the name of a deceased candidate. Once it happened that a candidate who died a few days before the election won that election. They found a solution: a member of the same political party had to perform the duties of the dead candidate. The law outlines a strict time frame, when a person may refuse to participate. Our law should have had certain reasonable restrictions, so that the candidates were not allowed to withdraw their candidacies a day before the election. For example, 15 days before the election.
“Practical application shows the advantages and disadvantages of the new Law “On elections of President and Jogorku Kenesh.” The CEC must now think about how to resolve law deficiencies and consult with the Parliament, because in four years, we will have to elect the parliament in accordance with this very law. We must think about how to change the law to avoid similar incidents. Four years is not a long time for politics.”
Assessing the extent to which the CEC managed to fulfill its duties, Pavel Dyatlenko said, “Concerning the election, the CEC has in general managed to fulfill its task. As for the results, it is necessary to wait for the final reactions from the public and political forces that participated in the election. If society and the candidates accept the election results without much controversy and political opposition, the CEC certainly was successful. The final outcome has not been announced. Therefore, it is too early to make a final assessment.”
Dyatlenko also added that, “The violations that have been identified and recorded by the observers are our “old” violations that were used over 20 past years. Nothing was invented: ballot stuffing, re-voting, using administrative resources, and attempting to vote with or without documents. We used a set of standard techniques. The violations that occurred in previous campaigns emerged during this election, too, and nothing new came up.
“This is expected for any elections. In some countries, there are more violations, while in the other countries there are fewer. The impression is that during this election, there were fewer violations than in June 2009, when opposition candidates were not allowed to speak and to campaign. And now there was much more freedom. Access to the media, access to advertising, access to public meetings, and access to working with people in different parts of the republic – it was all available for candidates.”
Pavel Dyatlenko paid attention to the actions and statements of those candidates who lost the election, saying, “The political struggle never ends. It was before the election, on the election day and after the election, because it is a political struggle. Those who have lost and the people who support them are interested in fixing the electoral success. They need to consolidate the voices that they managed to win, in order to use them in their political struggle. The main thing is that they must not leave the legal field. They must try to solve their problems through political negotiations, to resolve contradictions and disputes that exist.
“Such a gap between the candidates just shows that over the past year and a half there has been a redistribution of the electorate between different political actors and parties. This occurred after the April 2010 when the Bakiyev regime was overthrown. After that, we have “updated” the list of the most prominent politicians. So there has been a redistribution of voters. This election has vividly shown this redistribution.
“There was one political team, and now this team does not exist. There comes a new political team. Various political forces have fought with one another, and now with the election, we were able to measure the current mood and preferences of the voters. This is a kind of measuring the flowing state of the political process,” said Pavel Dyatlenko.
This material was prepared by Tatyana Vikhareva and Anna Kapushenko