Independent Observers Find Reasons to Praise Election
Jan 17. MFA
All day on January 15 observers from 29 countries monitored the election to the Majilis of the Parliament and maslikhats throughout the country. They visited polling stations and shared comments with the media.
“So far I have been to four polling stations, and I was impressed how it [voting] was organized, and how many people showed up,” Matthias Dornfeld, a senior expert at the Aspen Institute in the USA said at a news briefing in Astana. “I think the election for the Majilis of Kazakhstan is going well, finely and smoothly. I have seen a lot of international observes, including from the OSCE, as well as domestic observers.”
“I think that Kazakhstan has made a huge progress,” Dornfeld added.
Another independent observer and chairman of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum Sidharth Saxena visited seven stations in different locations. “I found in comparison things were very professionally conducted in all the stations that I visited,” he said. “Perhaps, the most interesting thing that I noticed was the excitement and how people were interested in what they were doing. We spoke to the voters before voting and after voting to see the opinions and what they thought about the process and candidates.”
He also mentioned he did not notice any errors that he could say were irregular or other violations of any sort at the stations he visited.
Dimitrios Mavrakis, Director of Energy and Policy and Development Centre of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, said he had visited 30 polling stations in Astana “where everybody voted orderly and freely”.
“The citizens were queuing peacefully to vote and when they have exercised their right freely, it was secured that no double voting could happen,” Mavrakis said.
He also said at the stations he noticed representatives from the participating parties who were observing the voting. He said he was invited to observe the counting process as well.
“National elections are not a simple process for choosing leaders but an element of an ongoing effort of the people of Kazakhstan and its leadership to shape their peaceful future through democratic processes based on their history and civilization,” Mavrakis added.
“We found polling stations very calm, very well organized, very quite. The election was managed very professional. We also observed massive turnout in those polling stations,” Ali Abollhasani, representing the OIC mission, said. “We would like to congratulate the people of Kazakhstan for their participation in yesterday’s parliamentary election. We believe that they showed once more political maturity, also the spirit of responsibility and involvement in the enforcement of political and democratic institutions in Kazakhstan. I believe that yesterday people of Kazakhstan showed that they are looking for unity, tolerance and development,” he added.
Many observers arrived in the Mangistau region to observe election there. One of them, Lord John Waverley from the United Kingdom, observed election in the riot-hit town of Zhanaozen. “This is not the first time I observe election in the country. Compared to elections in other CIS countries, voting in Kazakhstan is more like electoral process in Europe, Waverley said.
“I personally think Kazakhstan’s president has taken the right decision to conduct election in the town of Zhanaozen under the state of emergency because people should have the right to vote,” the British politician added.
Yerzhan Kazykhanov himself commented on the vote as the polling stations were closing and said he hoped the election would represent a “step forward for our young nation.”
“We are happy that today’s elections passed off peaceably and calmly, giving our citizens the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to choose their representatives in Parliament,” the minister said as quoted by the Foreign Ministry’s press service.
“We are grateful to the 1,000 international observers who have come to monitor these elections, and to almost 150 foreign reporters who showed interest in covering the election. Their presence with us is welcome, and an important signal of our country’s commitment to openness and determination to follow a democratic path,” Kazykhanov noted.
The minister also spoke of the challenges of holding an election in a big country and in a country which has seen mass disturbances in one town last month.
“We were determined that today’s elections would be conducted in a free and fair manner. The administrative challenge of holding elections in the world’s 9th largest country makes this no mean achievement. Voters have been able to exercise their democratic right in a secure environment, including in Zhanaozen which we consider particularly important following the tragic events of 16 December,” Kazykhanov added.
“We have witnessed an open and transparent electoral process. Journalists and observers – domestic and international – have been able to travel and monitor freely the length and breadth of the country, including in Zhanaozen. We take note of all accusations of irregularity and each will be investigated,” the Foreign Minister continued.
According to the minister, “the election outcome is still awaited – we respect the role of the CEC in announcing what the people have decided. But at least one other political party is guaranteed to take its place in the new Parliament – increasing the diversity of debate, and so strengthening our political system.”
“Every successfully held election represents a step forward for our young nation. The CEC is to be congratulated on the efficient and transparent conduct of these elections, so helping to improve our democratic process,” Yerzhan Kazykhanov said.
“I hope three parties will be in the Majilis and let us give this new system a chance, and a chance to the new parties to prove that they are good for the people,” Paul Ville, an honourable member of the Belgian Parliament, said on January 16.
“I have no hesitation in believing that the people of Kazakhstan have got the result today that they desired,” Michael Hancock, a Liberal Democrat Member of the British Parliament and member of the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said. “I drove nearly 400 kilometers yesterday in and around the steppes, not only in Astana – in the countryside and beyond. We didn’t suspect or see anything that would lead myself and my colleague to have any doubts whatsoever about why people want to participate in this election.”
The British politician also noted three major things “have been served by the election here. One is that you have taken yet another step towards greater involvement of the people in the governance of your country because you will have more than one party in the parliament, which by any measure must be seen as a good thing. Secondly, people’s will has been returned by the result, there was no need to rig an election here. Enthusiasm of people to vote for the status quo was apparent to everyone. Thirdly, I think you send a very strong message to organisations like the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OSCE that democracy is moving step by step, slowly but surely in the right direction in Kazakhstan,” Hancock added.