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West Blasts Fraud In Kazakhstan Presidents Landslide Win

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev waves to supporters after his landslide victory in 04 December's presidential election was officially announced in Astana, 05 December 2005. Kazakhstan's presidential election was free and fair, the country's top election official said 05 December after Western observers issued a damning report on the poll. The election, in which veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev won a landslide re-election, was "transparent, free, competitive and fair," Onalysn Zhumabekov, chairman of the Central Election Commission, told journalists. AFP Pool / Kazakh Presidential Press Service.
by Sebastian Smith
Astana, Kazakhstan (AFP) Dec 05, 2005
Western observers blasted oil-rich Kazakhstan's "flawed" presidential poll Monday after veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev won landslide re-election and the opposition called for the result to be annulled.

Official returns showed Nazarbayev won 91.01 percent of votes cast, securing a fresh seven-year term at the head of the giant Central Asian state which he has led since the Soviet era.

But the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Sunday's election failed to meet international standards, citing ballot stuffing, multiple voting, interference, media bias and intimidation.

In the pre-election campaign there was "limited possibility for a meaningful competition," the OSCE said in the capital Astana. After, the counting of ballots was "viewed as bad or very bad in one out of four counts observed."

Kazakhstan's election chief admitted shortcomings but said they had not affected the result.

Nazarbayev, whose 16-year rule has transformed this former Soviet backwater into an emerging world oil power, celebrated victory with 4,000 supporters in Astana.

"The people of Kazakhstan won," he told cheering activists in yellow campaign shirts and caps. "You saw that the people voted for stability. This is not about revolution."

Nazarbayev also reached out to opponents, saying: "We will listen to them and work with them."

But main opposition candidate Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who won just 6.64 percent of votes, according to official results, warned of impending dictatorship and called for the results to be annulled.

"The authoritarian regime of Nazarbayev is taking a totalitarian turn," he said in the city of Almaty.

"We will take all legal measures to protest the official results of the voting and will press for this election to be declared invalid," Tuyakbai said.

According to officials, former labour minister Alikhan Baimenov landed third place with 1.65 percent, then Yerasyl Abilkasymov of the People's Communist Party at 0.38 percent, and environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov at 0.32 percent.

Tuyakbai's spokesman Aidos Sarimov reacted with sarcasm. "I can only regret that Nazarbayev wasn't given 120 or 150 percent," he told AFP.

Sarimov said voter lists had been falsified and the official turnout of about 77 percent artificially inflated.

However, the opposition has so far indicated that it will abide by a law banning street demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the election. Tuyakbai said he would decide about protests according to the "situation."

In his own furious reaction, Communist candidate Abilkasymov said: "It's nonsense. ... This is what happens when people vote on command."

A Nazarbayev victory had long been predicted, though not by such a wide margin. Independent analysts say the one-time steel worker, who rose through Communist Party ranks to head Soviet Kazakhstan in 1989, enjoys solid support.

Under Nazarbayev's rule, Kazakhstan has become the most prosperous and stable part of Central Asia, largely thanks to billions of dollars of foreign investment in the country's Caspian Sea oil fields. Kazakhstan is set to become a top-10 world oil producer within a decade.

But the republic, which is roughly the size of western Europe or India and was once part of Genghis Khan's empire, has never held an election judged free and fair by Western observers.

Even before the election, the opposition complained that media bias and pressure from the authorities made a fair campaign impossible.

About 1,600 observers monitored the election, including some 465 from the influential OSCE, of which Kazakhstan is a member.

Bruce George, the OSCE observers' coordinator, said that "regrettably, despite some efforts which were undertaken to improve the process, the authorities did not exhibit sufficient political will to hold a genuinely good election."

Onalysn Zhumabekov, chairman of the Central Election Commission, described the OSCE criticism as generally "objective, but certain conclusions we don't agree with." He said the election had been "a big step forward."

"There were deficiencies," he said. "The point is the volume. Did they influence the result? ... I can already say that these insufficiencies did not."

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile telephoned "warm and heartfelt" congratulations to Nazarbayev, the Kremlin said.

Putin told his Kazakh counterpart that Moscow looked forward to further "strengthening on all fronts of relations of good-neighborliness, alliance and strategic partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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