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New Kazakh Parliament Holds First Session


President Nursultan Nazarbaev (center on podium), members of the government, and freshly elected lawmakers stand for the national anthem before the inaugural session of the new Majilis in Astana on January 20.
Kazakhstan's newly elected, multiparty parliament has held its first session, with President Nursultan Nazarbaev as a new phase in his Central Asian state's development, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The parliament is still dominated by President Nursultan Nazarbaev's ruling Nur Otan party, which holds 83 of its 107 seats following national elections on January 15.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Nazarbaev cited the return to a multiparty parliament as a new phase in Kazakhstan's post-Soviet development.

He did not mention the recent bloodshed in western Kazakhstan, where emergency law remains in effect after a deadly clash between disgruntled oil workers and police on December 16.

The two other parties represented in the Majilis, or lower house -- Ak Zhol and the Communist People's Party -- are both seen as pro-government.

An international team of observers led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the election "did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections."

None of Kazakhstan's elections since the demise of the Soviet Union -- a period dominated by Nazarbaev and the Otan and successor Nur Otan parties -- has been regarded as free or fair by Western institutions.

In its first first session, parliament reconfirmed Karim Masimov as prime minister with 93 deputies voting in favor, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. Masimov has held his post since 2007, the country's longest-serving prime minister since independence in 1991.

Senior Nur Otan party official Nurlan Nigmatulin was elected chamber speaker.

* This story was amended to clarify the presence in previous parliaments of multiple parties.

compiled from agency and RFE/RL reports