President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s party, Nur Otan, won 82 percent of the votes and maintained Kazakhstan’s authoritarian status quo due to a lack of true electoral competition. Nazarbayev has been in power for close to 25 years, during which his party has benefited from the authoritarian actions he has taken to remain in control of parliament.
“Kazakhstan has had no free and fair elections for decades because of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s authoritarian rule,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Opposition parties are often shut down, and other competing parties self-censor in order to score minority seats in parliament. With his quarter-century long rule, Nazarbayev has turned Kazakhstan into a full-fledged dictatorship by effectively creating a one-party rule,” added Halvorssen.
Out of the six parties that were competing with Nur Otan, only one could be considered a true opposition party; the five other parties supported Nazarbayev’s political party and offered no true alternative. The lone opposition party in the race, Nationwide Social-Democratic Party (NSDP), did not stand a chance against Nur Otan and failed to win enough votes to secure any seats in parliament. Nur Otan had 127 candidates running for the 107 seats, while NSDP had only 23 candidates running in the election. Nur Otan’s party list not only included politicians, but also consisted of senior figures in state and private companies as well as celebrities. Since 2004, opposition parties have gained only one seat in three parliamentary elections.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), an election monitoring body, concluded that the election fell short of democratic standards and that “genuine political choice remains insufficient” in Kazakhstan. The OSCE observed serious irregularities throughout the election, including ballot box stuffing and the last-minute addition of voter names. The OSCE’s report found that the pro-regime parties’ “campaign platforms and rhetoric were complementary to and aligned with the president’s long-term strategies and refrained from proposing political alternatives.”
“Nazarbayev’s regime eliminates true electoral competition by closing down opposition parties and independent media outlets, arresting journalists, and banning protests and demonstrations,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “Since meaningful political opposition and a competitive electoral environment do not exist in Kazakhstan, presidential and parliamentary elections are mere formalities aimed at giving Nazarbayev's autocratic rule an appearance of legitimacy,” added El-Hage.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.