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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA2318 2007-08-27 01:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

DE RUEHTA #2318/01 2390146
R 270146Z AUG 07

E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: A) Astana 1558,     B) Astana 1906, 
     C) Astana 1949,     D) Astana 2221, 
     E) Astana 2222,     F) Astana 2223, 
     G) Astana 2244 
ASTANA 00002318  001.2 OF 004 
1. (SBU) Summary: Political parties competing in the August 18 
Mazhilis elections had more freedom to campaign than ever before, 
the Central Election Commission operated professionally and 
transparently, and the voting process on election day was relatively 
smooth and fair.  However, this progress was marred by a new legal 
framework that fails to meet a number of OSCE commitments and 
Council of Europe standards and significant problems with the 
conduct and transparency of the vote counting process after the 
polls closed.  The outcome of the elections will also impact the 
debate about Kazakhstan's progress on the path to a more democratic 
system: the overwhelming victory for President Nazarbayev's Nur Otan 
party sets up a parliament consisting solely of Nur Otan members, 
undermining Kazakhstan's claim that its recent constitutional 
reforms will create a more open and democratic political system.  In 
the end, the Government of Kazakhstan missed the opportunity offered 
by the elections to show conclusive proof of its progress toward a 
more open and democratic system.  End summary. 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
2. (SBU) According to the preliminary election results released by 
the Central Election Commission (CEC) on August 19, President 
Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party received 88% of the votes (5.174 million 
votes).  No other party reached the 7% threshold necessary to win 
seats in the Mazhilis.  The National Social Democratic Party 
finished second with 4.6% of the vote; Ak Zhol received 3.27%, Aul 
1.58%, Communist People's Party 1.31%, Patriot's Party .75%, and 
Rukhaniyat .41%.  The CEC announced that 64.56% of the electorate 
voted, and turnout ranged from a high of 90.12% in Almaty oblast to 
a low of 22.51% in Almaty city.  According to election observers, 
turnout was much higher in rural areas than in urban centers.  Two 
Kazakhstani organizations, Ksilon Astana and the Kazakhstan 
Association of Sociologists and Political Scientists, released exit 
polls showing Nur Otan winning approximately 80% of the vote and 
NSDP and Ak Zhol both hovering at or slightly below 7% of the vote. 
However, Post does not have sufficient information about the 
methodology of either poll to judge their accuracy. 
3. (SBU) Citing exit polls showing a huge victory for Nur Otan, 
President Nazarbayev joined 3000 of his supporters at an outdoor 
victory celebration in Astana on election night, complete with 
fireworks and silver ticker tape.  "When we get the final results 
tomorrow, the country will start a new political system," Nazarbayev 
said. Speaking on August 20, after the release of the preliminary 
results, Nazarbayev celebrated the high voter turnout and said that 
the results show the country is pursuing the right policies. "Honest 
and fair elections took place in which all political parties in the 
country participated. Unfortunately other parties couldn't pass the 
7% barrier, but we shouldn't make a tragedy of that." (Note: 
Nazarbayev spoke before a session of the Assembly of the People of 
Kazakhstan, during which the Assembly exercised its new 
constitutional power to select nine members of the Mazhilis. (Ref C) 
The process was uncontested and largely ceremonial.  End note.) 
--------------------------------------------- - 
--------------------------------------------- - 
4. (SBU) Opposition leaders condemned the process and refused to 
recognize the results.  The NSDP called the results "a direct 
consequence of totalitarian processes" and "a rollback to the Soviet 
past," charging that the government thwarted the will and 
expectations of millions of citizens and "massively falsified" the 
results.  Among other things, the NSDP said that the 64.56% turnout 
was inflated through the unlawful use of administrative resources, 
orchestrated multiple votes, ballot box stuffing, manipulation of 
voter lists, and the complicity of precinct election commissions 
which had few opposition representatives.  The NSDP also alleged 
that precinct election commissions openly hindered the work of 
election observers and party representatives at the polling places 
in vote counting stations.  The NSDP is compiling its evidence of 
these violations, and plans to file numerous court claims in an 
attempt to void the election results.  According to press reports, 
party leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbay plans to stage a protest on August 
30 or 31, though he stressed the party intends to defend its 
position "within the Constitution." 
5. (SBU) Ak Zhol also released a statement decrying the election 
results and demanding a recount and investigation. Ak Zhol refused 
to recognize the preliminary results released b
y the CEC, citing 
ASTANA 00002318  002.2 OF 004 
"mass rigging and falsifications of the voting results at all 
levels."  The party called the election "a step backwards in the 
political development of Kazakhstan," and reserved the right to 
carry out "any forms of civil protest allowed by the law of 
Kazakhstan."  In multiple conversations with Embassy officers prior 
to the election, both NSDP and Ak Zhol representatives said they 
expected to receive between 20 and 30% of the vote.  (Comment: These 
estimates seemed overly optimistic.  End Comment) 
6. (U) The OSCE/ODIHR International Election Observation Mission 
released its Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions on 
August 19, the day after the election.  ODIHR said that the 
elections "reflect welcome progress in the pre-election process and 
during the conduct of the vote," but that a "number of OSCE 
commitments and Council of Europe standards were not met, in 
particular with regard to elements of the new legal framework and to 
the vote count." 
7. (SBU) The ODIHR report commended Kazakhstan for several 
noticeable improvements over previous elections, and said that the 
authorities demonstrated a willingness to conduct a more democratic 
election process.  In particular, the report concluded that parties 
had greater access to media and greater freedom to campaign than in 
previous elections, and the CEC conducted its work transparently, 
promised to post all results protocols on its website, and was 
committed to voter education, improving the quality of voter lists, 
and developing better mechanisms to hear election related 
complaints. On election day, the ODIHR report stated that voting was 
conducted in a generally calm environment, and that observers 
assessed the voting process positively in 95% of polling stations 
visited.  (Note: This finding concurs with the observations of 
Embassy monitors, who reported that most election precincts were 
professionally run and free of major violations.  End note.) 
8. (U) In ODIHR's view, however, these improvements were not 
sufficient to bring Kazakhstan into compliance with OSCE and Council 
of Europe standards.  ODIHR's criticism of the election focused 
heavily on a number of new legal provisions and the vote counting 
process after the polls closed.  ODIHR concluded that a "combination 
of restrictive legal provisions creates obstacles to the development 
of a pluralistic political party system" and "significantly 
decreases accountability of elected representatives to voters...." 
In particular, ODIHR cited: 
      --the excessive requirements for registration of political 
      --undue limitations on the right to seek public office, 
including a 10-year residency requirement, a requirement for party 
membership for candidates, and a lack of provision for independent 
      --a high 7% threshold for representation in the Mazhilis 
(Comment: Even if the threshold had been set at 5%, as some have 
proposed, no other party would have performed well enough to win 
seats in the Mazhilis.  End comment.); 
      --provisions that political parties choose after the elections 
which candidates from their lists will become members of the 
      --provisions which require the expulsion of a Mazhilis deputy 
when the deputy leaves the party, is expelled from the party, or the 
party is dissolved; 
      -- the fact that 9 of the 107 Mazhilis seats are not contested 
by popular vote but are chosen by the unelected Assembly of People 
of Kazakhstan.  This arrangement contradicts Paragraph 7.2 of the 
1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document, which requires participating states 
to "permit all seats in at least one chamber of the national 
legislature to be freely contested in a popular vote." 
9. (U) The vote counting process was assessed negatively in 43% of 
the stations visited by the ODIHR observers.  The negative 
assessments were based on numerous procedural violations, 
obstruction of observers, falsification of signatures on the voter 
lists or protocols, failure to follow proper counting procedures, 
counting for Nur Otan votes cast for a different party, and the 
presence of unauthorized persons, including police, during the 
counting process. The assessment was worse than in the 2004 Mazhilis 
elections and the 2005 presidential election; in both cases, 28% of 
ODIHR observers assessed the vote counting process negatively. 
ASTANA 00002318  003.2 OF 004 
10. (SBU) Although there were a few examples of deliberate fraud, 
ODIHR did not conclude that there was an intentional effort by 
authorities to manipulate the results during the vote counting. 
Rather, there were significant enough procedural problems and 
obstructions such that it could not rule out the possibility of 
fraud or express confidence in the accuracy of the final tally. 
ODIHR's findings coincide with the observations of the Embassy 
monitoring teams, which unanimously reported that election 
commissions were confused and disorganized during the vote counting 
process, disregarding procedures and safeguards designed to preserve 
transparency and prevent fraud.  In only one case, though, did there 
appear to be a deliberate effort to manipulate the final vote count. 
(Note: ODIHR and other observers will conduct further analysis of 
the vote count by comparing the signed protocols collected by 
observers at the precinct level with the official results that will 
ultimately be released by the CEC.) 
11. (U) Finally, ODIHR described a number of other violations and 
problems, including that authorities treated Nur Otan favorably 
during the campaign and blurred the separation between local 
authorities, lower-level election commissions, and the party; the 
state media provided overwhelmingly favorable coverage of Nur Otan; 
the state Russian-language national newspaper censored NSDP's 
material submitted under a CEC program to provide free column space 
for all parties; and national television stations refused to air 
certain NSDP advertisements.  (Note: The full ODIHR report is 
available at http://www.osce.org/odihr-elections/ 
item_12_25488.html.  End note.) 
12. (SBU) The Republican Network of Independent Monitors, a domestic 
NGO that conducted short-term monitoring in 1917 polling stations in 
nine oblasts and two cities (Astana and Almaty), released its report 
on August 20.  The report was more negative than the ODIHR report, 
concluding that election commissions did not recognize observer 
rights in many cases, measures were implemented to create an 
artificially high turnout, many voters were unable to vote due to 
inaccurate voter lists, and vote counting and tabulation processes &
#x000A;were filled with procedural violations and a lack of transparency. 
The report also criticized election commissions for refusing to 
provide protocols (signed, final results) to observers at many 
precincts.  (Note: The US government provided some of the funding 
for the Network's election observation activities.  End note.) 
13. (SBU) Predictably, the Commonwealth of Independent states 
monitoring team, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization monitoring 
team, and the Public Committee to Monitor Elections, a domestic, 
pro-government NGO, all concluded that the elections were free and 
transparent, without any major violations. 
14. (SBU) Nobody doubted that Nur Otan would be overwhelmingly 
victorious on August 18, though many observers, and the opposition 
leaders themselves, genuinely expected that NSDP or Ak Zhol or both 
would cross the 7% threshold.  Three factors explain their failure 
to do so: the confidence of Kazakhstanis in President Nazarbayev and 
the direction of the country, the institutional advantages - legal 
and illegal - of Nur Otan, and the failure of NSDP and Ak Zhol to 
mount effective campaigns. 
15. (SBU) President Nazarbayev remains extremely popular, and 
Kazakhstanis are optimistic about the direction of the country. 
According to an August 16 INR Opinion Analysis of a US 
government-commissioned poll in Kazakhstan (conducted July 9-30), 
93% of Kazakhstanis are extremely confident about President 
Nazarbayev, an approval level unchanged from 2005, when he was 
reelected with 91% of the vote.  In addition, 91% of respondents 
agreed that the country is heading in the right direction, and 83% 
felt that the economic situation is good.  Poll respondents also 
expressed confidence in the government (72%), the parliament (69%), 
and local government (65%), and 78% of respondents felt that it is 
more important for Kazakhstan to have a strong president than to 
have the executive branch share power with the legislature and 
judiciary. Thus, even assuming a level playing field and an honest 
election, the opposition parties faced an uphill battle in trying to 
convince the electorate of the need for change. 
16. (SBU) The opposition's uphill climb was further hindered by an 
uneven playing field. Nur Otan is much larger, better organized, and 
wealthier than all of the other parties, and enjoys significant 
institutional advantages.  Though opposition parties had greater 
ASTANA 00002318  004.2 OF 004 
freedom to campaign than in previous years, they still faced some 
interference from local authorities, media bias, and difficulty 
accessing advertising space. (Refs B, D, E, F, G) Moreover, the 
honesty of the vote count is uncertain, as discussed above. 
17. (SBU) Finally, despite greater freedom to campaign, reduced 
government interference, and improved media coverage, opposition 
parties failed to mount vigorous and effective campaigns or develop 
a focused message that connected with voters.  (Ref D, G) By their 
own admission, the NSDP received only 22% of the vote in their 
stronghold of Almaty (and just over 22% of Almaty residents turned 
out to vote, compared to the national average of 64.56%).  In an 
early effort to deflect criticism of the lopsided result, on August 
21 the Government of Kazakhstan distributed a statement to the OSCE 
Permanent Council in Vienna defending the conduct of the elections 
and blaming the opposition for their failed campaigns.  Among other 
things, the statement criticized the opposition for being 
splintered, failing to develop a real and focused political program 
or organizational structure, lacking charismatic leaders, and 
spending too much time criticizing the status quo instead of setting 
forth their own strategic plans for the country. 
18. (SBU) Barring a conclusive finding by ODIHR that the vote counts 
announced at the precinct level do not match the aggregated results 
scheduled for release in Astana, nobody knows whether the 
shortcomings in the election process were sufficient to keep NSDP 
and Ak Zhol from crossing the 7% threshold. 
19. (SBU) Comment: The missed opportunity for NSDP and Ak Zhol is 
obvious: they failed to capitalize on their greater freedom to 
campaign and communicate with voters. Neither party was able to 
establish a clear message (one NSDP Mazhilis candidate admitted to 
Poloff that the NSDP's message "was not very different" from Nur 
Otan's.)  The unwillingness of Ak Zhol and NSDP to collaborate also 
damaged their chances, as they ultimately undercut each other. 
Their failure to win seats in the Mazhilis denies them the 
opportunity to develop a constructive opposition presence in Astana 
and leaves them with little to build on for future campaigns.  While 
 a better, more focused campaign may not been sufficient to overcome 
the institutional and historical advantages of Nur Otan or the 
problems in the election process, the opposition parties missed a 
chance to strengthen their base and to make an impact on the 
electorate.  In essence, the parties will remain in the wilderness 
at least until the next election, which is not scheduled until 
20. (SBU) Comment, continued: Nur Otan is left with the very result 
- a one-party parliament - that officials in the Presidential 
Administration told the Ambassador would be undesirable and 
embarrassing for the government. (Ref F) Increased efforts by 
central authorities to ensure a fairer election have been 
overshadowed by Nur Otan's overwhelming victory and a mixed 
OSCE/ODIHR report. Kazakhstan will move forward with a one-party 
Mazhilis, undermining its claim to have opened up its political 
system through recent constitutional reforms. (Ref A) The new 
Mazhilis is unlikely to take initiative and there will be less room 
for independent thinking by deputies: under the new constitution, 
deputies lose their seat if they resign from or are expelled from 
the party. Furthermore, the result denies both Nur Otan and the 
opposition the opportunity to sharpen their democratic skills. End 


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