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Ruling Party Sweeps Kazakh Parliamentary Polls --> Kazakhs voting in the town of Akkol, 120 kilometers from Astana, on August 18 (epa) ASTANA, August 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Preliminary results show Kazakhstan's ruling Nur Otan party has won 88 percent of the vote in August 18 parliamentary elections, leaving the opposition with no seats.

According to the Central Election Commission, neither of the country's two main opposition parties succeeded in reaching the 7 percent hurdle needed for representation in the 107-member Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament.

Burikhan Nurmukhamedov, a leader of the opposition Ak Zhol (Bright Path) party, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that his party does not recognize the election results.

"We do not agree with the outcome [of the election], and we do not recognize it. We've been receiving reports about the [election] law being broken, about falsifications. We are about to issue a statement about this. We do not accept the outcome," he said.

'Fight Will Go On'

The Central Election Commission says Ak Zhol received about 3.25 percent of the vote. Nurmukhamedov said the party's own surveys indicated it won about 12 percent.

Amirzhan Kosanov, a leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, was quoted today by the French news agency AFP as saying: "It's back to the Soviet Union, with a one-party system just like the Communist Party. But political life does not stop on August 18. The fight will go on."

The Social Democratic Party received 4.62 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

The International Election Observation Mission, comprised of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said the vote reflected progress.

"The elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution toward a democratic country," Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino, special coordinator of the OSCE short-term observers, said at a press conference in Astana.

But Di Nino also said a number of international standards were not met, in particular with regard to the vote count.

"After the polls closed it became difficult to get a clear picture, especially about the way the results coming from different pooling stations were aggregated," he said. "Over 40 percent of the reports from the vote count were found to be negative. This casts an unfortunate doubt over the overall positive assessment of these elections."

Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), however, recognized the elections as "free and transparent."

The Central Election Commission said voter turnout was just under 65 percent nationwide. Seven parties contested the election, which was called two years early.

The snap election is seen as a test of Kazakhstan's standard of democracy. No election in the Central Asian country has ever been judged as free and fair by Western observers.

Amendments To Constitution

President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has been in power since in 1989, hopes this will change following the introduction of amendments to the constitution in May. The changes made the early elections necessary.

"Today is another important day for our development as an independent country," Nazarbaev said after casting his ballot in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

"We made changes to our country's constitution. We made these changes in order to further unite our people around the ideas that have been expressed by all political parties."

Khabar Television announced after a live broadcast of the preliminary results that Kazakhstan has taken a "real step toward democracy."

The constitutional changes handed the Mazhilis more powers, such as naming the prime minister, and increased the number of seats in parliament. But they also removed the limit on the number of terms the president can serve.

The changes were partly aimed at giving substance to a bid by Kazakhstan to hold the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE in 2009.

(with material from agency reports)

Kazakhstan And The OSCE

READY TO LEAD THE OSCE? Kazakhstan has been lobbying to be granted the rotating chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009. In March, current OSCE head Karel De Gucht visited the country and said Kazakhstan is better prepared to head the OSCE than any other Central Asian country. But concerns about the state of democracy, the media, and ethnic relations make Kazakhstan's bid extremely controversial....(more)


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