Using technology where people’s trust in institutions and politics is damaged is one of the most sought-after alternatives today. This is why Sadyr Japarov – acting president of Kyrgyzstan – recommends the use of the blockchain to ensure fair elections in the country. In this way, the leader hopes to restore the confidence of his fellow citizens in the ongoing democratic process. While the idea may seem interesting at first glance, it could soon prove useless in light of allegations of fraud in the last elections.
At the beginning of October, the country had just gone to the polls in the legislative elections, the reliability of which was quickly challenged. This was followed by violent clashes in the streets marked by bloody repression by the forces of law and order. Mr. Japarov, who was then the leader of the nationalist opposition, has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2013. He was then released from detention at the headquarters of the State Committee for National Security amidst riots. Appointed Prime Minister in the wake by parliament to calm tensions, he eventually became Kyrgyzstan’s interim president on October 14.
Discredited, the outgoing president Sooronbai Jeenbekov had no choice but to resign under pressure from the popular movement. With new parliamentary and presidential elections due to take place, Mr. Japarov wants to distinguish himself from his predecessor during these elections. “We had three revolutions because of unfair elections. If this continues, the unrest and revolutions will continue. From now on, everything will be fair. I consulted the Central Electoral Commission and proposed to them the introduction of blockchain technology. This system can be implemented in 3 to 6 months,” he told Al-Jazeera.
While the interim president’s desire to restore democratic order with fair elections is to be welcomed, the relevance of his idea remains to be proven for two reasons. The first is the existence of advanced technologies that have already been used to avoid rigging in past elections. These include scanning voters’ fingerprints before they can vote. This was accompanied by the processing of ballots using a scanner and an electronic server.
The second reason is that these measures did not prevent the country from falling into an electoral crisis, as technological solutions were ineffective in the face of certain illegitimate practices. The buying of votes through intimidation or corruption makes it easy to rig the numbers coming out of the ballot boxes. This is all the more true as it weighs on Mr. Japarov’s coming to power similar allegations. Organized criminal groups allied to the new president are thus accused of having exerted their influence with the authorities to initiate the transfer of power.
It would therefore appear that the solution proposed by the interim President of Kyrgyzstan is not enough to allay the fears of his citizens about holding new elections. The possibility of using the blockchain should be considered, however, provided that credible institutions are in place.