As voters in Kyrgyzstan prepare to elect a new president on October 30, allegations that some candidates are using their official positions to influence the campaign – employing “administrative resources,” in local parlance -- continue to saturate the Kyrgyz press. But this week, local and international elections observers said they have seen few such examples.
On October 24, the Bishkek-based Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, which is conducting long-term campaign monitoring, expressed cautious optimism. “The electoral process is taking place relatively openly, transparently, and democratically,” concluded the coalition’s third report on the process, noting only three cases of administrative abuse.
Two involved state-employed teachers gathering students at campaign events for leading candidate Almazbek Atambayev, who stepped down as prime minister to run. The coalition did not observe the third incident, which was cited in parliamentary debate: Policemen in Osh backing former Emergencies Minister Kamchybek Tashiev allegedly seized the licenses of drivers who expressed support for Atambayev.
The list of irregularities is surprisingly short given that new allegations of violations, primarily against Atambayev, have appeared almost every day of the campaign. Only two weeks ago, Coalition leader Dinara Oshurahunova publicly listed a large number herself.
At a press conference October 24, Oshurakhunova said that despite the allegations, complaints have lacked factual evidence, making them difficult to investigate.
OSCE-ODIHR’s observation mission also released a report on October 24 backing the Coalition’s argument that candidates’ accusations of abuse had not been accompanied by evidence.
Yet another monitoring organization, Taza Shailoo (“Clean Elections”), said it had received complaints from voters about use of administrative resources by Atambayev’s campaign since the start of the race, but that most could not be confirmed.
Local monitors have been hard at work helping the government implement wide-ranging reforms of the electoral system. But their statements, sometimes contradictory, beg the question whether they have the capacity to monitor a daily flood of partisan allegations in a country where the press is not up to the task, and often part of the problem.
This election season, at a minimum, the kind of blatant fraud that defined the 2009 presidential vote appears unlikely. But will that be enough to ensure popular confidence in the results, and avert conflict once winners and losers are announced?