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Hastings and Cardin: Kazakhstan’s Election will be Key Indicator of Democratic Progress

WASHINGTON – Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) issued the following statement in the lead up to Kazakhstan’s early elections to the Majilis of the Parliament (lower house), which will be held on Saturday, August 18:

“Kazakhstan’s parliamentary election is an important event in the country’s process of transition to democracy. Kazakhstan’s chances of chairing the OSCE will in no small measure hinge on the preparations for and conduct of the election.

“We await the assessment of the OSCE election observation mission, which will evaluate how well Kazakhstan has met its OSCE commitments. We are, however, concerned about the impact of the overall political climate on the prospects for holding a free and fair contest – for example, there is considerable room for expansion of freedom of the press and association. Meanwhile, we wish the people of Kazakhstan every success,” said Hastings and Cardin.

On April 10, Congressman Hastings sent a letter to Kazakhstan’s then-Ambassador to the United States, Kanat Saudabayev, protesting registration requirements for religious congregations, which face fines and prison terms for peacefully gathering to worship without state permission. In addition, on June 14, Congressman Hastings, Senator Cardin and the Ranking Republican of the Helsinki Commission Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) sent a letter to President Nursultan Nazerbayev condemning in the strongest possible terms any plans by Kazakh authorities to demolish a temple belonging to the Hare Krishna community.

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