Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 94

On September 22, Zagipa Balieva, chair of Kazakhstan’s Central Election Commission, announced preliminary results for the September 19 elections to the lower chamber of Parliament, the majilis. In general, the race played out as analysts had predicted. Four political parties led the balloting and will share 10 seats in the new parliament. The pro-presidential Otan party, which received 60% of the votes, gets seven seats. The remaining three seats go to the pro-democratic Ak Zhol party; Asar, the party led by presidential daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva; and the AIST bloc consisting of the Agrarian and Civic parties.

Commenting on Otan’s landslide victory, parliament member Serik Abdrakhmanov said, “The success of Otan is proportionate to the popularity of the party and its leader [President] Nursultan Nazarbayev” (Khabar TV, September 22). In fact, hardly anyone doubted an Otan victory, as the party’s success heavily relied on administrative resources and regional governors for conducting massive publicity campaigns. The ostentatious rivalry between Otan and Dariga Nazarbayeva’s Asar left the electorate puzzled over the spectacle of father and daughter competing against each other. Perhaps the remarkable father-daughter standoff, unique in the history of Kazakhstan’s politics, was a tactic designed to show the liberal and democratic nature of the elections and dissipate the rumors about clan and family rule that circulated on the eve of the elections. The ambiguity of Asar’s political platform and its old, never fulfilled, campaign slogans aroused popular mistrust towards the party. Thus it is hardly surprising that only 11% of the electorate voted for Asar, while the pro-democratic Ak Zhol party got 12.4% of votes. CEC chair Balieva reported a relatively high turnout of 56.7%.

Government media reported that most election observers, including representatives of the OSCE and European Union, gave positive assessments of the elections. Reports stressed that the observers did not register any serious violations of the election law and the constitution and pointed out that Kazakhstan had made great progress in updating its election law in accordance with the principles of a democratic society. Speaking in Petropavlovsk (North Kazakhstan) the head of the Russian election observer team from Tyumen region, Valery Melnikov, praised the electronic voting system introduced in Kazakhstan and added that Russia was also considering electronic voting and updating its election law in accordance with Kazakhstan’s model. According to the Russian observers, local government officials did not interfere with election procedures and all rules were strictly observed, although in some polling stations computers did not work due to power failures and some voters could not find their names on the registers compiled by local election officials. Central Election Commission members conceded these shortcomings, but they underlined that overall this year’s election, particularly the electronic voting aspect, was a success (Khabar TV, September 22).

But one day after the elections, Ak Zhol leaders issued a statement strongly criticizing the CEC chair for “flagrant violation” of Paragraph 5, Article 50-1 of the constitutional law, “On Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan.” According to the law, the Central Election Commission was to identify and announce through the media which polling stations would use electronic voting machines. Computers in polling stations were to be installed three days before the elections. The statement said this process was done with great delay, and leaders of Ak Zhol appealed to the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s Office to bring charges of trampling voters’ rights against Central Election Commission officials. Observers from Ak Zhol stated that they had witnessed more than 1,000 violations of the election law.

The Central Election Commission has yet to comment on the Ak Zhol statement. In all likelihood, regional authorities will feel the fallout from any fraud allegations. Four days before the election, a group of candidates from various political parties told a press conference in Astana that the governor of North Kazakhstan region, Tayir Mansurov, had interfered in campaign activities to favor Otan. The candidates set up a citizens’ committee to collect signatures from local residents demanding the governor’s resignation. Meanwhile run-off elections in 22 of 67 single-mandate constituencies are scheduled for October 3.