OSCE raps Kazakh election, presses for reforms

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2011 4:54 AM
OSCE raps Kazakh election, presses for reforms

ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's presidential election suffered a number of serious irregularities, Europe's main monitoring body said on Monday, urging Astana to introduce democratic reforms before future parliamentary elections.

"International observers ...noted that reforms necessary for holding genuine democratic elections have yet to materialize," the OSCE said in a statement on the elections in which veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev won Sunday's early presidential election with an overwhelming 95.5 percent of votes.

The OSCE said its observers had noted "serious irregularities, including numerous instances of seemingly identical signatures on voter lists and several cases of ballot box stuffing. It said the vote count and tabulation lacked transparency, and procedures were often not followed.

"Regrettably we have to conclude that this election could and should have been better," Ambassador Daan Everts, Head of the long-term election observation mission deployed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), told a news briefing in the Kazakh capital.

"It showed the urgency of implementing the long-awaited reforms ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections."

Nazarbayev, 70, who has run his oil-rich nation since the Soviet era, told supporters that foreign observers had failed to find any violation of the country's electoral law or its constitution during the campaigning.

Kazakhstan's small but vocal opposition had boycotted the election, calling it a "farce" and "the Nazarbayev show," while three other candidates who did stand never publicly opposed the Nazarbayev. One of them said on the election day that he had actually voted for the incumbent.

"The absence of opposition candidates and of a vibrant political discourse resulted in a non-competitive environment," the OSCE said.

"While Kazakhstan has achieved a lot since independence, this election has showed that the country still needs to make improvements to meet democratic commitments, particularly in the fields of freedom of assembly and media," said Tonino Picula who leads the short-term OSCE observer mission.

Kazakhstan had been due to hold a parliamentary election in 2012. Russian news agencies quoted Nazarbayev's aide Yermukhamet Yertysbayev as saying on Monday that the president may now call an early election this summer.

The current legislature has no opposition deputies and is dominated by Nazarbayev's ruling Nur Otan party.

(Reporting by Robin Paxton; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jon Boyle)