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Kazakhstan, OSCE To Continue Election Cooperation

ODIHR director Christian Strohal discussed election procedures in Astana (file photo) (OSCE) November 6, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A visiting OSCE official has signaled the organization's readiness to continue cooperating with Kazakhstan on democracy and rights issues, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

The head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), Christian Strohal, made his remarks after meeting with Kazakh officials in Astana to discuss election procedures there. "What is important now is that we work on the basis of our recommendations and build on the progress and eliminate the problems," he said.

Strohal said OSCE/ODIHR and Kazakh officials also need to discuss provisions of laws on peaceful assembly, the media, the criminal code, and the representation of ethnic minorities in the country's parliament.

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Kayrat Sarybay subsequently confirmed that his country is "interested in further cooperation...above all in the sphere of legal culture."

The OSCE-led International Election Observation Mission that monitored the August 18 parliamentary elections concluded that the vote reflected welcome progress. But it said a number of international standards went unmet, particularly concerning elements of the new legal framework and the vote count.

The presidential Nur Otan party received 88 percent of the vote, making it the only party to win seats in the lower house of parliament.

The head of Kazakhstan's presidential human rights commission, parliamentarian Sagynbek Tursunov, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that legislative changes have been proposed since the elections. "What [Strohal] says about some differences between our laws and internationally recognized standards, well, that's what we did as representatives of the presidential commission on human rights -- we have sent some laws back to parliament and the government for revision," Tursunov said.

Speaking at today's meeting, Kazakh Central Election Commission Chairman Kuandyk Turgankulov said his commission has some questions concerning "ambiguous" conclusions in the international monitors' final report. Turgankulov vowed that any violations will be thoroughly investigated.

Election Commission Secretary Bakhyt Meldeshev told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that 13 complaints have been filed so far.

Kazakhstan hopes to chair the OSCE in 2009, and OSCE foreign ministers are due to meet in Spain later this month to vote on that bid.

Critics of Kazakhstan's OSCE bid have cited the country's dubious rights record and questioned its commitment to the rule of law.

(with material from agency reports)

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