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Kazakhstan: OSCE Report Cites Breaches Of Standards During Elections

  • Roland Eggleston

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it is disappointed with this month's parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan, following reports of falsification of results. OSCE officials are also expressing reservations about the preparations for upcoming elections in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. RFE/RL's Roland Eggleston sends this report from Vienna.

Vienna, 19 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The OSCE says it expects to issue this week a new report on the October 10 parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan which will be sharply critical of some aspects of the way they were conducted.

A senior OSCE official, who spoke on condition they not be identified, has told RFE/RL that the OSCE election mission reported several instances of falsification of results. They also cited a lack of transparency in the vote-counting and other breaches of international standards.

On Sunday, Kazakhstan's Central Election Commission said that preliminary results indicated that the OTAN party -- which is closely identified with Kazakhstan's power structures -- had garnered nearly 31 percent of the vote. Its closest rival was the Communist Party with nearly 18 percent followed by the Agrarian Party with close to 13 percent and the Civic Party with about 11 percent.

The election commission has said that the majority of districts in the country will hold a second round of voting next Sunday.

An interim report issued by the OSCE immediately after the elections pointed to several areas in which the first poll had fallen below international standards. However it said the election was an improvement on heavily-criticized presidential elections last January.

In its interim report, the OSCE noted what it called "serious violations" in the vote-counting procedures despite new rules by the Central Election Commission intended to make the process more honest. The interim report was particularly skeptical of vote-counting in the Almaty constituency. It said that in one case, forged returns were uncovered in Almaty reflecting different results for the same polling station. This took place in clear view of international observers.

The OSCE also complained about the neutrality of the commissioners administrating the elections. It said that in many cases the commissions were directed by regional and local government authorities. It said that frequently the commissions were made up of individuals who were dependent on the favor of regional and local authorities for their livelihood. It said many members of the election commissions were affiliated with the OTAN party, which came out on top in the October 10 poll.

Human rights organizations in Kazakhstan told the OSCE earlier this month that they doubted whether the elections would be fair. The deputy director of the Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights, Zhemis Turmagambetova, told OSCE chairman Knut Vollebaek at a meeting in Almaty that she did not expect fair elections. She said the OSCE should not send observers to the election because some would consider that a seal of approval.

The OSCE also said it is disappointed in the preparations for the November 6 presidential elections in Tajikistan and the parliamentary elections there early next year. A senior OSCE official told RFE/RL today that if there is no improvement, the OSCE will drop plans for a full-scale election-monitoring team in Tajikistan even though opposition parties have requested a full-scale election observation mission. The official said that despite this appeal the OSCE might send only one expert to assist the local OSCE mission in monitoring the vote. The OSCE official said the situation in Tajikistan is being considered at the highest level and a decision on whether to send a mission is expected in a few days. Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov visited OSCE headquarters in Vienna last week to urge it to send a mission.

Last week (October 15), the main opposition group, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), said the presidential election should be postponed because of irregularities in the way it was being conducted. In particular, the UTO complained that opposition candidates had been prevented from collecting signatures required to register. The election commission earlier last week had ruled that three opposition candidates had failed to meet the requirement. That left incumbent President Imomali Rakhmonov as the sole candidate.

The UTO also wants a new Central Election Commission and has said that all presidential candidates should have equal access to State media.

The OSCE is also concerned about the preparations for elections in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. An assessment team left for Uzbekistan today to see whether the conditions in which the December 5 parliamentary elections will be held are sufficiently close to international standards for the OSCE to send a full election team. It expects to make a decision next week.

Uzbekistan has formally asked the OSCE to send a full-scale monitoring team for the elections. In a visit to Uzbekistan last month, OSCE chairman Vollebaek told President Islam Karimov that the OSCE was not satisfied with some of the preparations for the elections.

Vollebaek later told journalists that there were "flaws" in the process and cited election laws. He also cited the whole area of human rights, including, in his words, "freedom of speech, freedom of religion where we see clear shortcomings."

But he told Karimov that the OSCE did not expect that countries in transition -- like those in Central Asia -- could immediately introduce international standards in regard to fair elections. He acknowledged it would take time. He said the assessment mission would make an "objective assessment" of whether a full observation team should be sent to the elections.

Meanwhile, an assessment team is scheduled to travel to Turkmenistan on November 8 to examine whether a monitoring team should be sent for that country's December 12 parliamentary elections. President Saparmurat Niyazov urged it to do so when he met Vollebaek last month. But OSCE officials are already skeptical of whether conditions will permit the presence of a monitoring team.

There are no political parties in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told the OSCE last month that political parties would appear when the people wanted them -- and said there was no sign of that. He also denied that there were any political prisoners but said he was planning an amnesty for some other prisoners shortly before the election.

OSCE officials in Vienna said today it could be years before conditions for democratic elections appear in Turkmenistan. Niyazov told Vollebaek during last month's visit that he hoped to introduce what he called a "new, democratic society" by 2010. But he did not spell out what sort of society he had in mind.