On October 10, Kyrgyzstan held emergency parliamentary elections, which followed recent political changes and tragic ethnic violence that started with the ousting of former president Kurmanbek Bakiev in April. To support free and fair elections, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) worked to enhance the legal community’s ability to manage election complaints and to increase public awareness about voter rights.
ABA ROLI, in cooperation with the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan, trained 167 judges, during which the chairman of the Central Elections Commission and several Supreme Court judges discussed the specifics of the elections code. ABA ROLI staff attorneys also worked with Supreme Court judges to produce a benchbook on deliberating election disputes.
ABA ROLI also provided similar trainings to defense attorneys and coordinated legal counsel and outreach to voters. A lawyer-staffed hotline fielded questions prior to and during the polls, while roving legal clinics provided on-site assistance. A website, www.shailoo2010.kg, offered news and information on voter rights, new election decrees and on challenging election irregularities. Additionally, ABA ROLI operated a “know your rights” campaign, distributing pamphlets, posters and contact information for free legal counsel to communities affected by recent ethnic violence and to new voters.
During the elections, ABA ROLI trained 200 legal observers and stationed them at 50 precincts throughout Kyrgyzstan to monitor polls. The observers identified incorrect voter identification and unlawful voter busing to alter poll results as the most common complaints. The observers’ report will be provided to the Central Elections Commission to support preparations for the fall 2011 presidential elections.
To learn more about our work in Kyrgyzstan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <[email protected]>.