A date for Kyrgyzstan parliamentary election has been set (October 4) and parties are gearing up for the campaign (which starts September 4). The election is much anticipated by regional observers because it should be, unlike most other regional elections, an actual race. The world will also be watching because the country plans to debut the use of a controversial biometric registration program in the election–specifically the use of fingerprints to verify identity before voting. The program is controversial due to concerns about the right to privacy of Kyrgyz citizens and the possible de facto disenfranchisement of any who refuse to submit fingerprints.
A law passed last summer mandated the registration of biometrics for all Kyrgyz over 16 to form a Unified State Population Registry (EGRN) with the initial intent of registering citizens and generating accurate voter lists. Biometrics, broadly, are measurements of human characteristics and can mean anything from a photograph to DNA. The Kyrgyz database, according to Planet Biometrics, “will store basic biographic information, passport details, civil status, and biometric data – including all ten fingerprints, a digital photograph of the face and handwritten signature.”
The biometric registry law was challenged in court in November, with opponents saying it was unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court judge assigned the case, however, was removed in May after a lawyer acting on behalf of the parliament’s legal affairs committee filed allegations that she had revealed her views on the case prior to making a decision. The judge was then effectively sacked.