Parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan to live up to the OSCE standards
WASHINGTON, DC. August 15. KAZINFORM. On May 16 President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced major Constitutional reforms aimed to strengthen the role of Parliament, and fresh parliamentary elections. In his statement, he reiterated the basic philosophy which has underpinned the development of the country’s fledgling democracy, namely “the economy first, then politics”.
The President concluded: “We have been approaching this moment of political changes consistently and gradually. All views and proposals, including the most radical, have been studied and worked on. We have consulted the political parties, scientists, experts, and the representatives of the diverse ethnic groups of Kazakhstan. The ideas have all been discussed in the mass media in great detail.” “I am sure that now is the right time to introduce changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan and to begin a new and distinctive stage in the development of our Motherland. I count on the pro-active participation of Parliament in the new stage of Kazakhstan’s democratization”, he stated. Early elections to the Parliament are needed to break a constitutional conundrum. Under amendments approved in May, changes in the legislature’s authority cannot take effect until a fresh body of deputies is elected according to the new proportional party-based system. According to the recent amendments to the Constitution, the President ceded a significant part of his powers to Parliament, thus starting the process of transition from presidential rule to a presidential-parliamentary system. The registration of candidates for the Majilis elections opened on 22nd June and closed on 11 July, 2007. During this period, 7 political parties have submitted candidate lists which have been registered by the Central Electoral Commission of Kazakhstan (CEC). They are: 1.People’s Democratic Party “Nur Otan” – 126 candidates; 2.All-National Social Democratic Party – 80 candidates; 3.Kazakhstan Patriots’ Party – 11 candidates; 4.“Rukhaniyat” Party – 9 candidates; 5.Kazakhstan’s Social Democratic Party “Auyl” – 33 candidates; 6.People’s Communist Party of Kazakhstan – 20 candidates; 7.“Ak Zhol” Democratic Party – 98 candidates. The total number of registered candidates for the Majilis elections is 377 people competing for 98 seats, thus making the elections truly competitive. Of this number, 321 are men and 56 women. The average age of the candidates is 55. 76 of the candidates are representatives of the private sector, 47 are former members of the Majilis, 45 are representatives of national companies and organizations, 41 are representatives of scientific, cultural and educational organizations and 21 are civil servants. With respect to the Maslikhats, local legislature elections, as at 24 July 9128 candidacies have been submitted and 8744 have been registered by the CEC. There is an average of 2.6 candidates for every seat in the Maslikhats. The Government of Kazakhstan is making important steps to improve further the electoral process and live up to the OSCE election standards. Amendments to the constitutional law “On elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan”, which have largely incorporated recommendations of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), have recently been enacted. On July 16 2007 a “round table” meeting to discuss the election campaign, its legal framework and the basic conditions was held in Astana with representatives of NGOs and international organizations taking an active part in the discussion. The participants unanimously emphasized the need to ensure strict compliance with the electoral legislation by all parties and individuals involved in the election. In July 2007, the CEC set up two multilateral bodies involving government agencies, the mass media, NGOs and political parties. The Social Council on Election Disputes and the Appeal Panel have considered 55 appeals by individuals and organizations – 21 concerning the meaning of electoral legislation, three on violations in electoral campaigning, one on violations committed by the candidates and two on matters not related to the elections. Full public access to information about the electoral process is regarded as one of the crucial elements of a successful electoral campaign. Therefore, the CEC has launched 42 public information and 10 advertising campaigns on TV channels, as well as 125 articles and publications in newspapers and magazines, and 26 articles in online editions. The CEC is paying particular attention to providing equal access to media for all parties participating to the elections. To achieve this goal, the CEC has paid for equal proportion of airtime for each party on national TV channels and provided equal coverage in national newspapers. Importantly, debates on television will be enhanced and expanded to allow for representatives of all parties to express and explain their political ideas to voters. Furthermore, the CEC in cooperation with relevant agencies has offered the political parties an opportunity to address voters through the means of e-government web-site, which now offers a special section where parties can present their materials, programmes and relevant news. Every voter can now send his/her question to the leadership of a party via a single web-site - www.e.gov.kz. The campaign, which has been entitled “Your choice is your future”, which is aimed at raising the awareness of voters about the election, is now fully underway. The CEC is making a major effort to facilitate the work of national and international observers. Electoral authorities at all levels have been commissioned to provide observers with all necessary information and local authorities have been tasked to establish workgroups to cooperate with observers no later than 1 August 2007. As of 25 July 2007, the CEC has accredited 262 foreign observers, including 60 from the ODIHR election monitoring team who represent 28 OSCE member states. It is expected that the OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring team led by Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj will include 37 long-term observers and around 400 short-term observers. To implement ODIHR’s recommendations on the step-by-step introduction of electronic voting, the CEC has approved a list of 1,520 polling stations which will be equipped with the “Saylau” (“Elections”) electronic voting system. The figure represents a 5 per cent overall growth as compared with the presidential elections in 2005. On 18 July 2007, experts from the “Information and Technical Center” of the CEC held a meeting with Mr. Peter Wolf, the ODIHR expert on electronic voting assigned to monitor the forthcoming elections in Kazakhstan. ODIHR’s election analyst, Mr. Rumen Maleyev, and ODIHR’s advisor on elections, Mr. Jonathan Stonestreet, also participated in the meeting. Its main aim was to demonstrate the “Saylau” system to the OSCE election monitoring mission, who started their official mission in Kazakhstan on 16 July. The “Saylau” operates in full compliance with national election legislation, international commitments of the OSCE member states and the standards of the ODIHR. Thorough work has been carried out not only to avoid mistakes in the current campaign but also to punish those responsible for mistakes in the previous campaign. Following complaints from individuals and organizations since the presidential elections in 2005, about 300 officials have been called to account. 19 local akims (governors) and 3 city mayors have incurred administrative punishment, 4 akims have been relieved of their posts, 1 akim has been denoted, and 8 chairpersons of electoral commissions have been dismissed, Kazinform cites News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the USA and Canada.