Blockchain-based elections proposed by new Kyrgyzstan prime minister

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  • Sadyr Japarov looks to blockchain-based elections to improve voter turnout
  • Kyrgyzstan Prime minister promises fair elections to come

The acting President of Kyrgyzstan has proposed the Central Election Commission incorporate blockchain technology after recent elections were marred by vote-buying. Sadyr Japarov, acting President and also prime minister, only received his latest office of state on 14th October after civil unrest disturbed the outcome of presidential elections in September.

Given disillusionment with the political process following years or corruption and disputed elections, Japarov has made it clear, in conversation with al-Jazeera reporters, he thinks blockchain-based elections can improve trust in the Kyrgyzstan electoral system. The country is poised for a parliamentary and presidential election in early 2021. It is thought Japarov intends to run for President by enacting constitutional reforms before then.

Japarov himself, however, may need to inspire trust before he can enact constitutional or electoral reforms. After kidnapping a regional governor, in 2013, Japarov was only seven years into his 11-year sentence when he was released during the 2020 election riots. The former nationalist MP reportedly pressured President Jeenbekov to resign after ensuring his own appointment as prime minister. The leader of the parliamentary faction highlighted the historic nature of this moment for Kyrgyzstan: ‘Never before […] have the powers of the president, prime minister and parliament all been held in the hands of one person.(Omurbek Tekebayev).

Are Blockchain-based Elections really fairer?

Blockchain, however, has been utilized already to improve election integrity. The first trial was in Sierra Leone, 2018 to reduce corruption and violence historically associated with the country’s elections. West Virginia also utilized blockchain technology in primary elections. The US is looking into gaining a higher turnout by giving citizens a choice to vote via mobile, with thumbprint verification. It is suspected blockchain-based elections could reduce voter suppression, removing the deterrent of long waits, intimidation, and violence at physical polling stations.

Given that the recent Kyrgyzstan elections have been beset with voter buying, however, it remains to be seen whether blockchain can mitigate this form of corruption. Technology has already been introduced into Kyrgyzstan elections at pace, with elections this year using fingerprint scanners and electronic processors. Perhaps blockchain really could be next.