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Kazakhstan Elections Fall Short

An elderly Kazakh woman votes at her home in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty, on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012.

Recent parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections.

Recent parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, and the Council of Europe. Both organizations monitored the elections. The United States acknowledges their assessment that a variety of issues caused the polling to fall short of the international standards to which Kazakhstan has committed itself.

The elections were well administered at the technical level, and observers noted that changes in Kazakhstan’s election code in 2009 were made to ensure that a second party would be seated in the next Mazhilis (lower house of parliament).

According to the final results, the ruling Nur Otan party won with more than 80 percent of the vote. Pro-business party Ak Zhol polled 7.5 percent and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan also made it across the 7 percent entry threshold.

But the OSCE and the Council of Europe also noted that Kazakh authorities did not provide the necessary conditions for the conduct of genuinely pluralistic elections. They pointed out that several political parties were barred from running and a number of candidates were de-registered without due process. Moreover the vote counting process lacked transparency, with cases of fraud reported.

Kazakhstan’s electoral law includes major inconsistencies with OSCE commitments and other international standards, as it disproportionately restricts freedom of assembly, the free flow of information and freedom of association. The law also places burdensome restrictions on candidate eligibility making it hard for independent candidates to run.

“If Kazakshstan is serious about their stated goals of increasing the number of parties in parliament,” said special Coordinator for the OSCE observer mission Joao Soares, “then the country should have allowed more genuine opposition parties to participate in this election.”

According to the OSCE, there was limited public debate in Kazakhstan and the media operated in an environment characterized by self-censorship. On the plus side, the political parties that were permitted to compete in the election could campaign largely without government interference.

The United States encourages the government of Kazakhstan to follow through on its stated goal of strengthening overall conditions for political pluralism. The United States looks forward to engaging with the new Parliament and working with the government and people of Kazakhstan to implement a broad-ranging strategic partnership.