With 16 candidates running in Kyrgyzstan’s presidential elections in October 2011, even dedicated followers of politics had trouble deciding which one represented the best choice for the country. Internews and its local partner organization Internet Movement created the online tool Politmer.kg to help voters differentiate between candidates’ positions on pressing issues facing the country, including constitutional reform, national reconciliation following ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in 2010, and economic development.
With just two months to go before the elections, most of the candidates had still not elaborated a concrete policy platform. Politmer’s team of journalists, programmers and web designers worked swiftly to seek out and post as many of the candidates’ policy-related statements as possible to help clarify their beliefs and track the relationship between past promises and performance. In addition, their efforts to gather official political platforms coupled with public pressure to fill in missing information following the site’s rollout pushed candidates to clarify their positions prior to the elections.
Politmer.kg holds politicians in Kyrgyzstan accountable to the public by tracking the promises they make and the actions they have taken toward fulfilling them.
Other site features included virtual voting, biographical information on all of the candidates, a look at the use of political influence to affect the outcome of the elections, campaigning methods used by various political camps, restrictions on campaigning in foreign media, and infographics depicting the number of candidates and voters per region, prices of airtime for campaign ads, average cost per week of election campaigning, and the history of elections in Kyrgyzstan since 1990.
Since Election Day on October 30, 2011 (when former prime minister Almazbek Atambayev became Kyrgyzstan’s new president), the site’s team has focused on monitoring the fulfillment of promises made by politicians appointed to key government positions. Site users can submit promises they hear politicians make during speeches, public events, or press conferences, which are then verified and tracked publicly online by the site’s team. Their efforts have put accountability of elected officials at the forefront of political debate for the first time in Kyrgyzstan.
The project was a finalist in the 2012 One World Social Innovation competition, held annually as part of the One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Prague. The competition celebrates initiatives that use new media tools and social networks to increase public awareness of human rights issues and publicize stories that have been overlooked by traditional news media.