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Kazakhstan - 2011 Election

In December 2010, in accordance with the law, a group of government supporters initiated a petition process to replace two scheduled presidential elections with a 2011 referendum to extend President Nazarbayev’s term until 2020. The referendum movement collected over 5 million signatures-- well above the required 200,000-- although there were credible reports that many were obtained by coercion. The referendum bid ultimately failed and was replaced by an early presidential election.

In the 03 April 2011 election, President Nazarbayev won 95 percent of the vote with a turnout of almost 90 percent. Following the 2011 cancellation of a referendum to extend Nazarbayev’s term until 2020, parliament hastily amended the constitution and election legislation to allow for the early presidential election, which had been scheduled previously for December 2012. Despite efforts by the authorities to improve the election-related legislation, the legal framework remained inconsistent with the government’s commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as other international standards, including excessive restrictions on candidates’ eligibility -- particularly the Kazakh-language fluency requirement -- as well as freedoms of assembly and expression. The lack of vibrant political discourse or opposition candidates resulted in a non-competitive environment and reflected systemic restrictions on political freedom.

The OSCE election assessment cited efforts to improve the quality of the voter lists and a high degree of professionalism demonstrated by members of the CEC. International observers rated the voting process positively in 90 percent of polling stations but negatively in 10 percent. OSCE observers cited irregularities in the counting procedure in 20 percent of precincts. According to the election law, the CEC is not required to publish detailed election results, which further diminished transparency. The OSCE and some international observation missions noted systemic problems and serious irregularities, including numerous instances of seemingly identical signatures on voter lists; cases of ballot box stuffing; and proxy, multiple, and family voting, primarily caused by continued deficiencies in poll worker and voter education. Domestic observers reported significantly inflated turnout numbers, exceeding observed turnout by as much as 21 percent.

In indirect elections on 19 August 2011, local representative bodies (Maslikhats) elected 16 Nur Otan party members to the senate. The CEC reported no complaints or irregularities. Maslikhats elect 32 of 47 senate deputies, and the president appoints 15 members, with the requirement that the appointments facilitate representation of different ethnic and cultural groups.

At year’s end, there were nine registered political parties, including the opposition parties Ak Zhol, Rukhaniyat, Auyl, and the National Social Democratic Party. On October 4, a Kazakhstani court issued a six-month ban on the Communist Party of Kazakhstan because it formed an illegal alliance with the unregistered Alga opposition party.

In order to register, a political party must hold a founding congress with minimum attendance of 1,000 delegates from two-thirds of the oblasts and the cities of Astana and Almaty. Parties must obtain at least 700 signatures from each oblast and the cities of Astana and Almaty, registration from the CEC, and registration from each oblast-level election commission.

Although parliament published several draft laws, some parliamentary debates, and occasionally its voting record, many parliamentary activities remained outside public view. Accredited journalists and representatives of public associations could observe some parliamentary sessions via video link from a separate room. Transcripts of parliamentary sessions were not available to the public. During the year parliament closed public and media access to discussion of controversial legislation.

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