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Kazakhstan: President Angered By OSCE Criticisms Of Elections

Last month's parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan were widely criticized by western governments and international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Yesterday, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev leveled criticisms of his own at the OSCE. Today, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service gave the OSCE an opportunity to respond.

Prague, 11 November 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Yesterday, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev told reporters in Astana that the OSCE had unfairly judged his country's recent parliamentary elections. Nazarbaev went on to question the usefulness of the organization. The head of the OSCE's election department for Central Asia, Hrair Balyan, spoke with RFE/RL today by phone from Warsaw. He was asked about his organization's criticisms of last month's elections.

"We have in our possession falsified protocols -- that is, the results of the elections in various precincts. We have evidence of incorrect results announced in various districts. We have evidence for that. We also have observers, observations in essence, that local authorities in more cases than not, interfered in the process by ordering certain officials to report certain required results."

It was such comments written in the OSCE's assessments of the elections which prompted an angry response from Nazarbaev yesterday.

"Surely there were some mistakes made during the elections, but our courts are researching the cases of rules violations right now. Everything is legal. Look at other countries, countries which have no press and freedom of speech, countries which have no alternative elections at all. Comparing us with them, I would say Kazakhstan is the most democratic country in Central Asia. That is why any double standards expressed by any organization are not acceptable to us."

In responding, Balyan denies the OSCE applies double standards to any country.

"No, we don't have double standards. Secondly, we try to avoid comparing countries in the region."

Despite the differences, on some matters Nazarbaev's views and those of Balyan are close. For example, Nazarbaev argued yesterday that his country had made progress toward genuinely democratic elections:

"We have held alternative presidential elections this year. We have held parliamentary elections, in which every seat was contested by some eight candidates. Is this democracy? Of course it is. Look, we have made great strides toward real democracy. Do you think it was easy? No. We are a former socialist republic... all the politicians and state figures have just taken off their socialist uniforms. But we have achieved a lot already toward democracy."

Balyan today agreed that progress has been made in Kazakhstan.

"It is true that Kazakhstan has made progress during the last six or seven months before elections. We worked very closely with the Central Election Commission to improve the legislative and regulatory framework in which these elections took place.... I should say that certain procedures on election day during the polling itself went better than in previous elections in Kazakhstan."

Ulrich Schoening, an OSCE official based in Kazakhstan, gave an interview to Kazakh television late yesterday. Schoening also denied any double standards are being applied. And despite Nazarbaev's criticisms, Schoening also said the OSCE is committed to further, mutual cooperation with officials in Astana.

Yesterday, Nazarbaev asked whether his country needs the OSCE, which it joined in 1992. Schoening, in his television interview, responded by saying the OSCE would regret it if Kazakhstan became the first country to leave the organization's ranks.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of the Kazakh Service contributed to this report.)