20 november 2017

Central Asia news

The administrative resource is not enough. The Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan told about «the most democratic elections»

13.10.2017 09:08 msk

Fergana

Politics Kyrgyzstan

The situation around the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, scheduled for 15 October, continues to heat up. The national authorities themselves are afraid of possible unrest and external interference in the voting process, and the opposition expresses concerns by the flow of complaints about its principal candidate, Omurbek Babanov. Exclusively for Fergana, Elnura Alkanova talked to the member of the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan (CEC) Gulnara Jurabayeva, who explained why rumours about the upcoming riots are groundless, what complaints on the candidates they received and why the power protégé lacks administrative resource to win.

- Gulnara, how does the current election campaign differ from the one that was in 2011?

- In 2011, the situation was such that leaving President Roza Otunbayeva ensured the possibility of non-interference of law enforcement agencies in the election. It is difficult to say that then administrative resource did not apply, unfortunately, it is impossible to completely eradicate this evil, but it can be minimised - made less noticeable. The main task of the incumbent was also depoliticisation of the security sector, siloviki (law enforcers - note by Fergana) and judges.

Unfortunately, it did not happen. We receive complaints about the fact that those who work in law enforcement agencies forced to intervene in political disputes.

- Candidate of power Sooronbai Jeenbekov accused of using administrative resources, and another candidate Omurbek Babanov - in bribery. What needs to be more afraid?

- You know, I can give an example. These were the elections to the city kenesh (councils - note by Fergana) in 2016. At that time non-governmental organisations have revealed that only administrative resource is not enough for candidates. Therefore they also use bribery. If earlier it was enough to use one tool of influence, in this case - an administrative resource, today we see a combination of several resources - it is putting pressure on the leaders of different communities, neighbourhoods, house committees, and distributing some material rewards through them. Therefore bribery from opponents of power is an attempt to equalise the chances.

- Which candidate leads the number of complaints?

- We mostly receive complaints against the actions of two candidates - Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Omurbek Babanov. Of course, there are more complaints against the opponents of the authorities, but these complaints are very similar to each other. That is, the content of complaints is almost identical, but different people signed them.

- What are the complaints about?

- Let's say one complaint is very serious; it concerns interethnic discord. The video spread in the network, I first looked at it and was utterly horrified. But then it turned out that it was edited and taken out of context. It turns out that you can cut in such a way that you will get a story about how one of the candidates almost calls for separatism in the end. The supporters themselves sent a letter to the State Committee for National Security and asked to find out who made such a cut. (Jurabayeva is referring to Omurbek Babanov's speech in the south of the country, during a meeting with residents of the village of On-Adyr, where ethnic Uzbeks form the majority of the population - note by Fergana.)

- On 10 October, the Central Election Commission decided to issue a third warning to Babanov because of his statements. How did the commission motivate its decision?

- In fact, the CEC's conclusions should have based on a linguistic examination, and all this has to be held in court. Only the court has the right to determine whether there is sedition in the words of the speaker. I had questions about the existence in the words of the candidate of calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order, firstly. Secondly, were there any calls to violate the integrity of the state. Having listened to Babanov's speech completely, I considered his words correct that he would not look at the ethnicity of a citizen, that he would judge only by his professional qualities. It is, of course, solely my personal position.

- And what about the first two warnings?

- The first warning Babanov received for using the image of the incumbent Minister for Emergency Situations Kubatbek Boronov. Officials are forbidden to participate in campaigning. But I do not view this as campaigning since there is no such ban as the prohibition of using images of officials. From the side of the candidate, it was solely unethical to use the image of the minister.

The second warning was a religious figure, some Kamalov, took part in the campaigning event. It turns out that he has an official status - a member of the Council of Ulems of Kyrgyzstan (Islamic spiritual council). Here I agree, believers should not interfere in state affairs. But still voted against the warning, since there was a similar situation with the Jeenbekov campaign, in which a prominent religious figure, former mufti Chubak Ajy Jalilov, took part. The candidate from power then received no warning.

- By the way, how does CEC react to complaints about the candidate from power?

- [It] issued not a single warning for Jeenbekov, while complaints related to the use of administrative resources in general.

- And why are warnings pass over Sooronbai Jeenbekov? Is CEC itself accidentally an administrative resource?

- In a sense it is. I will give an example. We had a complaint from authorised representative of Torobayev (Bakyt Torobayev, a presidential candidate, who had withdrawn from the race and decided to support Babanov's candidacy - note by Fergana) on the fact that the OTRK (Public Television and Radio Company - having an open public structure, which has a supervisory board, but is completely under the control of the current government - note by Fergana) defamed him. They say that the TV reporters deliberately set the news in such a way that the Torobayev supporters looked buying votes. We then found out that the OTRK uses a certain website as its source. We invited representatives of this site to our office, and it turned out that they take information on entertaining online forums. Of course, we challenged the channel by questions, because there are certain standards of journalistic activity. The TV channel took information from a muddy, unreliable source, I suggested issuing a warning and bringing the TV channel to administrative responsibility, but CEC refused.

- Because CEC issues warnings by voting results of members, and the majority opinion outweighs?

- Almost always seven or eight members of CEC vote, in the same way, that is, they have similar positions on all issues under consideration. Four of them represent the president, two, if I'm not mistaken, represent the parliamentary opposition.

- Is there any reason to believe that the authorities control CEC?

- If I can not prove it, I can not speak about it affirmatively. For some indirect reasons, sometimes it seems to me so. But in any case, when we see how some candidates (Kanat Isayev, Omurbek Tekebayev) are not allowed to the election process, it reduces the level of legitimacy of the voting results.

- Now many people talk about possible destabilisation in the country during the elections. The president himself skipped his trip to Sochi to personally monitor the situation in the country. From your point of view, riots are possible?

- The more officials, especially representatives of law enforcement agencies, spread such rumours, the more tension grows in society. It turns out that the very source of this tension should be sought in the corridors of power. Now they say that "voluntary people's squads" will organise to maintain order, but how to control their activities? "People's squads" must subordinate to some rules, they should not be at polling stations. At best, their place in the police stations and in the areas of conflict, where law enforcement authorities would not have enough forces to understand the situation. And then I doubt if it should be done. I saw in 2012, as these "people's squads" did not let voters to polling stations. If they intimidate voters, official power structures will be to blame for this.

- And yet, are there any reasons to be afraid of such conflict situations?

- In my opinion, there are no preconditions for serious fears. Separate conflicts have always accompanied elections, and it can be assumed that they will be repeated at some polling stations. But to expect that voting destabilises the overall situation in the republic... Perhaps such rumors are spread with the aim to intimidate citizens convincing them that democracy inevitably entails riots.

- Different experts write that these elections will be the most democratic and that it is difficult to guess who will be the next president for the first time. With what statement would you argue?

- I would bet precisely against the "most democratic." Democratic elections are when all institutions of power are working. The parliament and the courts do not work for us. Parliament, as a collegial body, must ensure oversight of the security forces and ensure their non-interference in the election campaign and the voting process. MPs themselves also had to refrain from participating in elective events. At the same time, the courts, which in theory should be unbiased, intentionally removed some participants from the presidential race.

- What do you think, what role will international observers play in the elections?

- Observers can either strengthen the legitimacy of elections or weaken it - everything will depend on their evaluation of the voting process. We now have an interim report of the OSCE, which lists the cases in which voters were subjected to pressure, bribery cases and so on.

- Is there any authoritative observer, whose opinion, indeed, the power would appreciate?

- Yes, there is no such. I do not even know how to answer this question. They write their recommendations, analyse our legislation for compliance with international standards. In plain language, they recognise the results of elections or question them.

Fergana News Agency