Observers slam Kazakh leader’s 95% election romp

Observers slam Kazakh leader’s 95% election romp
# 04 April 2011 20:13 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Monday extended his rule over Kazakhstan into a third decade with a crushing 95 percent victory in elections that observers said fell well short of democratic standards, APA reports quoting AFP.
The Central Election Commission said the first official results showed the incumbent had won 95.5 percent of the vote on mass turnout of 89.9 percent -- both figures beating Nazarbayev’s performance in his last re-election in 2005.
The victory gives the 70-year-old -- who has ruled Kazakhstan since even before the collapse of the Soviet Union -- a third decade of power and keep any uncertainty over who will one day succeed him on the backburner.
But international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) immediately cast a shadow over his triumph, slamming the polls as short of "genuine democratic" standards.
Daan Everts, the head of the long-term election observation mission said: "Regrettably we have to conclude that this election could and should have been better. It showed the urgency of implementing the long-awaited reforms."
"Needed reforms for holding genuine democratic elections still have to materialise as this election revealed shortcomings similar to those in previous elections," the observer mission said in a statement.
The observers reported "serious irregularities, including numerous instances of seemingly identical signatures on voter lists and cases of ballot box stuffing," the statement added.
The uncompetitive nature of the contest was reaffirmed by a bizarre incident in which one of the three challengers -- environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov -- said he had "expressed my respect for the winner" by voting for Nazarbayev.
The snap poll was boycotted by the main opposition and watched closely by Western embassies after social revolutions swept veteran leaders from power in other Muslim nations in the Arab world.
But a triumphant Nazarbayev told a meeting of adoring supporters that the margin of his victory proved his country was impregnable to the unrest now hitting other Muslim regions.
"Of course this is a sensation for Western states," Nazarbayev said to chants of "Nursultan! Kazakhstan!" from hundreds of flag-waving supporters.
"If the world sees bloodshed and ethnic discord, we are unified -- all the nationalities, peoples and religions of Kazakhstan," Nazarbayev said.
Opposition leaders argued that the three contenders had been placed in the field by the government to make the vote look fair.
"This only confirms that they were there for decoration," said unregistered Azat party co-leader Bulat Abilov.
"Of course there was no competition," he added.
The official turnout figure of 89.9 percent will come as a particular disappointment for opposition leaders who called a boycott the only form of protest left for those unhappy with Nazarbayev’s regime.
"This regime has shown that it has learned nothing in the past 20 years," said Alga! (Forward!) party leader Vladimir Kozlov.
"We want members of the world community to start noticing things like this."
State television spent most of election day airing interviews with ruling party dignitaries who urged to people to vote and a top aide to the president scoffed at the boycott idea once the turnout figure was made public.
"Those who called for a boycott have shown that they know nothing about their own people," presidential aide Yermukhamet Yertysbayev told Khabar state television.
Kazakhstan has come under repeated fire for instituting effective one-party rule in which all political and economic decisions are made by Nazarbayev and his hand-picked ministers and assistants.
But this closed system has pursued a decade of business-friendly policies that have ensured 8.5 percent annual growth and a dramatic improvement in the lives the 16.4 million people living across the vast country’s steppes.
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