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Kazakhstan: OSCE Urges Prosecution Of Poll Violators

Pro-government parties appear to have won the largest share of seats in Kazakhstan's parliament in a vote of dubious fairness. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is asking the Kazakh government to allow legal challenges to the election results. RFE/RL correspondent Roland Eggleston reports from Vienna that the OSCE accuses local government authorities of being the main culprits in widespread election violations.

Vienna, 29 October 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has urged authorities in Kazakhstan to allow voters to go to court to challenge the doubtful results of this month's parliamentary elections. The OSCE wants those responsible for election violations to be prosecuted.

This is one of the recommendations in a preliminary report prepared by OSCE election observers. The observers found that both rounds of the Kazakh election -- on October 10 and October 24 -- failed to meet OSCE standards for democratic elections. The election was marred by what the OSCE calls "widespread and illegal interference by the authorities in the electoral process."

Preliminary results indicate that the Otan Party, which supports President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will be the largest faction in the new parliament. The preliminary results indicate that the next largest group will be the Civic Party, which also supports the Kazakh leadership. Those parties are followed by the Communists, the Agrarian Party and the Republican People's Party.

The OSCE report says that "doubts, distrust and skepticism" exist among voters about the electoral process in Kazakhstan. It says the situation can be remedied only if the government immediately publishes all polling station records for both rounds of the election. Then the voters must be allowed to challenge the results in court.

The OSCE recommends further that all pending complaints with the election commissions and the courts should be resolved expeditiously. All those found responsible for violating the law and compromising the fairness of the electoral process should be prosecuted. "Only then," the OSCE says, "can public confidence in the electoral process be restored."

After the first round of elections on October 10, some 400 complaints of violations were registered with the Central Electoral Commission. But the second round went ahead just two weeks later, which did n-o-t allow enough time for complaints from the first round to be settled. The OSCE said the interval between voting rounds was too short, as the law allows an interval of two months.

The OSCE report particularly criticized restrictions on allowing international observers to watch the counting of votes and the tabulation of results. As an example, it cites the case of Atyrau, one of the districts where an opposition candidate had qualified for the second round of voting. The OSCE said district election officials refused to allow international observers access to the vote count. After a fight broke out in one polling station, the observers were told their security could not be guaranteed, and they were forced to leave before the votes were counted.

Of equal concern, the report says representatives of local government were present during the voting, the counting, and the tabulation of results. It says that in some cases, government authorities were heard giving instructions.

The OSCE report also said it had evidence that the tallies from some individual polling stations were falsified. One district election official resigned in protest when asked to falsify results.

Despite the overall negative report, the OSCE did note that the Central Election Commission introduced several reforms after the first round of elections intended to make both the counting of votes and the tabulations of results more transparent. It said, however, that those efforts were largely ignored in practice.