International Monitors Slam Kazakhstan Election

Published January 16, 2012 10:18AM (EST)

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — International election monitors said Monday that Kazakhstan's parliamentary election failed to meet the fundamental principles of a democratic vote.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in its assessment of Sunday's election that the vote lacked the conditions needed for genuine competition.

According to preliminary results, President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party won 80.7 percent of the vote. Two other parties — the business-oriented Ak Zhol, which avoids confrontation with the government, and the People's Communist Party — got slightly more than 7 percent of the nationwide vote each, clearing the threshold to enter parliament.

That ends the total control of parliament once held by the president's party, but concerns remain that the legislature will still not be a forum for real debate.

"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," said Joao Soares, who led the short-term OSCE observer mission.

A more combative Communist party with a higher public profile was suspended by a court for six months in October for violating the law on public organizations, thereby ruling out its participation in the elections. Another party, Alga, which has distinguished itself with its unwavering criticism of the Nazarbayev government, has routinely been denied registration.

Nur Otan has benefited from its association with Nazarbayev and overt state support.

"Official announcements of the elections and advertisements for Kazakhstan's 20th independence anniversary were almost identical to Nur Otan's campaign materials," the OSCE said in its post-vote assessment. "This effectively blurred the distinction between the state and the party."

Positive factors noted by the OSCE were the competent administration of the election and legislation ensuring that at least two parties would enter parliament. Nur Otan had held all the elected seats in the previous 107-member parliament.

However, the monitoring mission said in a statement that the vote counting was not transparent.

"As a result, in many instances, it was not possible for observers to determine whether voters' choices were honestly reflected," it said.

The OSCE also reported its observers detecting at least a dozen cases of ballot-box stuffing

Kazakh authorities have taken pains to convey the impression of a fully competitive and transparent election. Several previously little-known research institutes published exit poll figures Sunday night that very closely tracked the preliminary results later issued by the election commission. It was unclear whether they had collected separate data.

By Salon Staff

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