International Monitors Criticize Kazakh Parliamentary Election
January 18, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
Although Kazakhstan’s January 14 parliamentary election ended the ruling Nur Otan party’s exclusive hold on the legislative branch, independent monitors and Western governments criticized the government for interfering in the elections. On January 16, the United States (US) Department of State issued a statement recognizing the preliminary assessment of the election by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which fell “short of the international standards to which Kazakhstan has committed itself.”
The OSCE acknowledged that Kazakhstan administered the elections well at the technical level and that legal changes were made to ensure that at least one additional party would enter the new parliament. According to the Washington Post, the ruling Nur Otan party of President Nursultan Nazabayev, won 80.7 percent of the vote. The Ak Zhol and People’s Communist Party barely garnered the required 7 percent of the vote required to enter the 107-member parliament. However, OSCE representatives claimed that several political parties were blocked from participating and some candidates were de-registered without due process.
During the week leading up to the election, President Nazabayev told the public, “The state has set up all essential conditions for holding open, fair, transparent and competitive elections.” João Soares, the head of the OSCE short-term observer mission, said this was not the case. The Washington Post reported that Soares said, “If Kazakhstan is serious about their stated goals of increasing the number of parties in parliament, then the country should have allowed more genuine opposition parties to participate in this election.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) noted that the only real opposition party that was allowed to participate in the election was the Social Democratic-Azat Party, which received only 1.6 percent of the vote. The head of the OSCE’s long-term election-observation mission, Miklos Haraszti told reporters that the “orchestrated election” was held in a “tightly controlled campaign environment in which the electoral rights of the citizens were seriously limited." RFE/RL’s filming of an instance of suspected ballot-stuffing in a booth in Almaty seems to corroborate this view.
On January 17, Democracy Digest reported that about 100 Kazakh opposition leaders burned copies of election results in a peaceful protest in Almaty, the country’s largest city. On the following day, according to EurasiaNet, President Nazabayev responded to critics by saying, “We are no longer going to invite to Kazakhstan experts hired by someone who criticize our elections.” He cited that the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States both found the elections to be free and fair. The OSCE and American officials hope to see an improvement in future elections but there is little reason for optimism. Nazabayev has only taken further steps to consolidate his power since entering office in 1991.
For previous news on Kazakhstan, please see:
Kazakh President Re-Elected In “Non-competitive” Election, Says OSCE
US Department of State - Parliamentary Elections in Kazakhstan
OSCE - Kazakhstan’s parliamentary vote, though well administered, did not meet key democratic principles
The Washington Post - Observers criticize Kazakhstan election
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - OSCE Monitors Criticize Kazakh Vote Failings
Democracy Digest - Poll shows Kazakhstan’s ‘decorative democracy’
EurasiaNet - Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Bans “Hired” Election Critics