Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Migrant Voters Feel Disenfranchised

Akan Imanov reports from migrant worker communities on the outskirts of Bishkek who are unaware they could vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Kelechek, a settlement on the fringes of the Kyrgyz capital, and close to the Dordoy market, a major source of employment for the influx of migrants from other parts of Kyrgyzstan, has around 8,000 residents, but only 1,200 will be eligible to vote in the presidential election scheduled for July 23.

Almost everyone living here has come from other parts of Kyrgyzstan in search of work, and they feel disenfranchised because they remain listed on electoral rolls back home, where they are formally registered as resident.

“If I was in my village, I would vote,” said one local man, noting that his wife and sister were in the same position. “It would cost money to go there and I can’t afford it. If there was a law allowing it, we would vote.”

Despite this widely-held view, Kyrgyz electoral law was in fact changed earlier this year to give people in precisely this situation an opportunity to vote.

“Anyone from Osh or Naryn can vote here,” explained Samad Borubaev of the national-level election body. “All you have to do is apply to the election commission requesting to be taken off the list where you’re registered [as resident] and to be added to the one where you live.”

At local level, though, electoral bodies and municipal bodies are failing to ensure migrant voters can exercise their rights. And communities like Kelechek and neighbouring Akjar, which has a population of 7,000, are completely unaware that they could vote if they wanted to.

Gulnara Jumadilova, the election commission chief for the area including Kelechek, said she had not heard that the rules had been changed to allow people to get their names onto the electoral roll.

More IWPR's Global Voices