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Helsinki Commissioners Decry Kazakh Elections, Fraudulent Vote Count and Intimidation Cited

WASHINGTON – Commissioners of the U.S. Helsinki Commission condemned today the conduct of presidential elections in Kazakhstan, citing reports of numerous procedural violations, government intimidation of opposition supporters, as well as ballot stuffing on Election Day.

“Regrettably, the authorities, including President Nazarbayev, failed to move the democratic process forward in Kazakhstan, continuing a pattern of fundamentally flawed elections,” said Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). “These elections were marred by egregious violations of OSCE commitments President Nazarbayev himself accepted when Kazakhstan joined the Helsinki Process in 1992.  Almost every aspect of the elections were tainted by widespread media bias, harassment, and voter intimidation as well as ballot stuffing.  Kazakhstan’s desire to lead the OSCE in 2009 has been undermined by the conduct of these elections.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords.  The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

“President Nazarbayev has once again made it obvious that he is not concerned about meeting Kazakhstan’s obligations under the Helsinki Process,” said Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).  “It is quite clear that the promises of the Kazakh Government to hold free and fair elections that meet internationally recognized standards remain empty.  The massive fraud, intimidation and outright abuse of power are blatantly inconsistent with a government seeking to lead the premier human rights organization in Europe.”

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who began his political rise during the Soviet period, won 91% of the vote on December 4.  The elections were observed by 460 monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The OSCE has also condemned the elections as badly flawed.  Previously, Nazarbayev had expressed his desire to have Kazakhstan chair the OSCE in 2009, a decision requiring consensus of all 55 OSCE countries.

“I am extremely disappointed with the conduct of the Nazarbayev Government in these elections,” added Commission Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.  “The government committed explicit and massive violations of the most basic international standards which flouted their clear responsibilities under the Helsinki Process.”

President Nazarbayev claimed that the results of the election demonstrated the Kazakh people’s desire for the status quo and preference for calm and stability.   The election had been watched closely given the OSCE bid, the country’s strategic importance, and dramatic democratic change in Georgia and Ukraine.

“I regret that President Nazarbayev did not take advantage of these elections to break with the past and open the door to a freer and more democratic future for the people of Kazakhstan.  Sooner or later the Kazakh people will claim the same rights and freedoms that they saw people win in Georgia and Ukraine.  Meanwhile, our task is to support civil society and those committed to peaceful, democratic change in Kazakhstan,” added Brownback.

Earlier this year, Co-Chairman Rep. Smith introduced legislation to put pressure on Central Asian states to reform and adopt human rights standards.  The bill, HR 3189, is called the Central Asia Democracy and Human Rights Act (CADHRA) of 2005.

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