Serious irregularities have marred Kazakhstan's presidential election, says Europe's main monitoring body OSCE. It has urged the country to introduce democratic reforms before future parliamentary elections.
Observers from Europe's main election monitoring body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said they noted "serious irregularities, including numerous instances of seemingly identical signatures on voter lists and several cases of ballot box stuffing."
"Needed reforms for holding genuine democratic elections still have to materialize as this election revealed shortcomings similar to those in previous elections," the observer mission’s statement said.
Veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev won Sunday's early presidential election with an overwhelming 95.5 percent of votes. But the OSCE slammed the polls as short of "genuine democratic" standards. It said the vote count and tabulation lacked transparency, and procedures were often not followed.
OSCE criticizes Kazakhstan election
"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."
But a triumphant Nazarbayev told a meeting of supporters that the margin of his victory proved his country was impregnable to the unrest now hitting other Muslim regions. 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.
"Of course this is a sensation for Western states," Nazarbayev said to chants of "Nursultan! Kazakhstan!" from hundreds of flag-waving supporters. "If the world sees bloodshed and ethnic discord, we are unified - all the nationalities, peoples and religions of Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said.
Kazakhstan's small but vocal opposition had boycotted the election, calling it a "farce" and "the Nazarbayev show." The current legislature has no opposition deputies and is dominated by Nazarbayev's ruling Nur Otan party.
Early parliamentary elections?
The OSCE has said "the absence of opposition candidates and of a vibrant political discourse resulted in a non-competitive environment."
"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, leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission. The mission urged the country to introduce democratic reforms before future parliamentary elections.
Kazakhstan is due to hold a parliamentary election in 2012. But Russian news agencies quoted Nazarbayev's aide Yermukhamet Yertysbayev as saying that the president may now call an early election this summer.
Kazakhstan has come under repeated fire for instituting effective one-party rule in which all political and economic decisions are made by Nazarbayev and his hand-picked ministers and assistants.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (Reuters/AFP)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein