Kazakhstan’s former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin announced on October 22 that he had submitted his nomination to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). His potential criminal record, however, might outlaw his candidacy. According to this year’s amendments to the electoral law (issued as a presidential decree with the force of law), anyone with a criminal record is barred from standing for public office. Two days prior to his announcement, a local court found the former prime minister guilty in absentia for participating in “mass gatherings and sessions of an unregistered organization.” On October 16, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee announced that Interpol is currently investigating Kazhegeldin for money-laundering, particularly in Belgium. Kazhegeldin, denying both charges, after a week’s absence arrived back in Kazakhstan with a team of U.S. lawyers who, according to Kazhegeldin, were “conducting legal monitoring” of the election campaign. Last week, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry invited international observers to monitor the January 10 presidential elections.
Kazhegeldin and President Nursultan Nazarbaev (see the Monitor, October 27), remain the only candidates so far to have submitted their nomination to the CEC. Presidential candidates have until November 10 to be nominated. They then have until November 30 to collect at least 2 percent of signatures of the total population from at least two-thirds of the country’s regions (the equivalent of 161,000 signatures), pay over 2.4 million tenge (some US$30,000), produce a medical certificate attesting mental health and pass a Kazakh language proficiency test. Both Nazarbaev and Kazhegeldin have passed the language test and provided medical certificates. The linguistic commission, composed of Kazakh language specialists and philologists, did, however, pointedly note that Kazhegeldin “made [both] mistakes in writing the text, and … stylistic inaccuracies in the enunciation of his election platform.” In general, a candidate must be over forty, be fluent in Kazakh (the state language), and have been a resident of Kazakhstan for at least fifteen years. There are currently 10,269 electoral commissions spread around the country. Of the some 15.7 million inhabitants of Kazakhstan, 8.5 million are eligible to vote.–SC
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