Kyrgyzstan, as I have detailed before, is using a new biometric registration system for voting in the upcoming parliamentary election, scheduled for October 4. The law making registration — which requires submission of a fingerprint, photo and signature — mandatory in order to vote was recently upheld as constitutional by the Constitutional Chamber of Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court. The precise substance of the decision is unknown, but one of the human rights activists, Toktaim Umetalieva, who filed the claim against the mandatory biometrics law told AKIpress that “the decision was made in nobody’s favor in fact. That is, the Chamber recognized [the] constitutionality of the law on biometric registration, but ordered the Parliament to rework the law in terms of a precise formulation of goals and objectives, mechanisms and criteria. In such case the law can be changed significantly.” The court’s decision on the constitutionality of the law was preceded by the summer ousting of the judge originally tasked with the case after she was accused of revealing her views on the biometric data law – that it was unconstitutional – before making her ruling public.
In addition to constitutionality, the system is also technically tenuous and some worry may simply result in chaos on election day. A recent opinion piece published by 24.kg highlights some of these worries. For one thing, the State Registration Service (SRS) responsible for registering citizens and the Central Election Commission (CEC) still have different voter lists:
According to SRS, the list of voters in Kyrgyzstan includes 2,619,000 people — they are the citizens who have passed biometric registration. “When we compared the list, submitted by CEC, with our data, the data of only 1.3 million people coincided and other 800,000 voters were simply absent,” the head of SRS Alina Shaikova said.
Ideally, the system is supposed to secure the election against fraud, such as stuffing ballot boxes and proxy voting. But the cure could be worse than the disease, disenfranchising those who have not volunteered to register and potentially some who did.