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Central & South Asia
Ruling party wins 'flawed' Kazakh vote
President's party wins 80 per cent of votes in parliamentary elections criticised by international observers.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2012 10:31

The ruling Nur Otan party of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has secured just over 80 per cent of the vote in parliamentary elections criticised as flawed by international observers.

Two other parties crossed the seven per cent threshold to gain seats in parliament for the first time, according to preliminary results released by the central election commission on Monday.

Ak Zhol, a pro-business party, and the Communist Peoples' Party of Kazakhstan, a largely pro-government party, gained ground with 7.46 and 7.2 per cent of the votes, respectively.

Their presence in parliament would mark the first representation for a party other than the president's since the Central Asian state's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Reporting from the nation's largest city, Almaty, Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker said the results showed that "things have changed slightly" from when the Nur Otan party held all 107 parliament seats.

But though the results showed the end of the total control of the president's party over parliament, our reporter said both parties were seen as friendly to the government and unlikely to be particularly critical of Nazarbayev's policies.

The anti-government opposition claimed the elections were marred by flagrant violations, but Nazarbayev said that the polls were "unprecedented in their transparency, openness and honesty".

The head of the observers' mission from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe also raised doubts about the conduct of the vote, saying that it "did not meet fundamental principles of democratic elections".

"Genuine pluralism does not need the orchestration we have seen," said Miklos Haraszti. "This election took place in a tightly controlled environment, with serious restrictions" on citizens' rights, he added.

Opposition candidates disqualified

Many opposition party candidates had been disqualified from the election, our correspondent said.

"One party isn't even able to get registered, and another one, two politicians aren't even able to run; they have been barred from running," our correspondent said.

Kazakhstan, whose electoral system has never been seen as fair and transparent by western governments, was eager to use the vote to boost its international image.

The government hoped that a transition to a multiparty parliament would serve to improve its democratic credentials after protests last month turned violent with police shooting at protesting oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen.

The December clashes led to 16 deaths and rioting in another town which saw one person killed by police.

The opposition and international observers condemned the conduct of the April 2011 presidential election which saw Nazarbayev win over 95 per cent of the vote in a poll where even one of his rivals voted for the Kazakh strongman.

A total of 9.2 million people were registered to take part in the vote to choose 98 deputies in the 107-seat Mazhilis parliament. The other nine legislators, representing Kazakhstan's various ethnic groups, will be selected by its people's assembly on Monday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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