1 On 27 April 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe and the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan
signed a co-operation agreement to establish a political dialogue
with a view to promoting the principles of parliamentary democracy,
the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
in Kazakhstan. Following an invitation from the Minister for Foreign
Affairs and Secretary of State of Kazakhstan, the Bureau of the
Assembly, at its meeting on 10 March 2011, constituted an ad hoc
committee composed of five members (one from each political group)
and appointed me as its Chairperson.
Based on proposals by the political groups in the Assembly,
the ad hoc committee was composed as follows:
Group of the European People’s
Ms Elsa PAPADIMITRIOU Greece
Socialist Group (SOC):
Mr Tadeusz IWIŃSKI Poland
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
for Europe (ALDE):
Baroness NICHOLSON United Kingdom
European Democrat Group (EDG):
Ms Yulia LIOVOCHKINA Ukraine
Group of the Unified European
Mr Jaakko LAAKSO Finland
Mr Vladimir Dronov, Head of Secretariat, Interparliamentary
co-operation and election observation
Mrs Daniele Gastl, Assistant, Interparliamentary co-operation
and election observation
Mr Serguei Kouznetsov, Legal Advisor to the ad hoc committee,
Secretariat of the Venice Commission
3 The ad hoc committee was supposed to act as part of the International
Election Observation Mission (IEOM), which also included the election
observation missions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization
for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE-PA) and of the Office
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (OSCE/ODIHR).
4 Regrettably, due to a major disagreement with the two OSCE
institutions mentioned above, our delegation was excluded from the
negotiating process on the joint statement of the IEOM. The OSCE institutions
expected us to approve a document prepared by them bilaterally.
In the absence of due consultation, and in accordance with our Election
Observation Guidelines, our delegation did not accept being given
the junior partner treatment and decided to go ahead with a separate
press conference and a separate statement.
5 The ad hoc committee met in Astana from 1 to 4 April 2011
and held meetings, inter alia,
with representatives of the presidential candidates, of the Central
Election Commission (CEC) the Head of the Election Observation Mission
of the OSCE/ODIHR and his staff, as well as representatives of civil
society and the mass media. On the day following the election, the
Head of the Delegation was also received by President Nursultan
Nazarbayev, candidate for his own succession. The programme of the
meetings of the ad hoc committee appears in Appendix 1.
6 On election day, the ad hoc committee split into three teams,
observing the elections in and around Astana and in Karaganda.
7 The ad hoc committee concluded that the outcome of the vote
in the early presidential election, held on 3 April 2011, reflected
the will of Kazakhstan’s electorate. The text of our press statement
issued the day following this election appears in Appendix 2.
8 The ad hoc committee wishes to thank the Kazakh authorities,
and in particular the Kazakh representative to the Council of Europe,
for the support and co-operation given to the ad hoc committee in accomplishing
and legal context
9 The early presidential election in Kazakhstan came
in the wake of a citizen’s initiative, whose origins and logic are
still unclear to this delegation, to hold a referendum on the extension
of the term of office of the incumbent President until 2020. The
President rejected the Parliament’s initiative, the Parliament overruled
that decision, and the Constitutional Council upheld the President’s
decision. The President then proposed holding an early presidential
election. On 3 February 2011, the Parliament amended the constitution
to allow the President to call an early election. The following
day, President Nazarbayev called the election.
10 With 10 political parties registered in Kazakhstan, the ruling
Nur Otan party is the dominant political force that holds all 98
elected seats in the Majilis (the lower chamber of Parliament).
The opposition contends it is being discriminated against through
harassment by the authorities who, allegedly, erect obstacles in
the way of registration and the holding of peaceful rallies, and
deny equal access to the media.
11 The legal framework for elections is primarily made up of
the Constitution, the Constitutional Law on Elections (Election
Law) and regulations of the CEC. In addition, provisions of the
Law on Political Parties, the Law on Peaceful Assemblies, the Civil
Procedure Code, the Criminal Code and the Administrative Offences Code
12 Amendments to the Constitution and the Election Law were adopted
in haste in February 2011, with no public debate, with a view to
allowing the early presidential election to take place. Amendments
to electoral legislation so close to the election run counter to
recommendations of the Venice Commission, according to which such
changes should normally not be made closer than one year to the
day of the election.
13 The legal framework continues to include restrictions on freedom
of assembly and on freedom of expression, as well as lack of due
process guarantees to ensure efficient redress in the complaints
and appeals system.
14 Moreover, the legal framework could further be improved through
the establishment of clear criteria for the evaluation of candidates’
Kazakh language proficiency, the introduction of safeguards for
a pluralistic representation on election commissions at all levels;
greater transparency in the tabulation process, not least through
the publication of polling station result protocols (the latter
is currently not provided for by the Election Law).
3 Election administration
and voter and candidate registration
15 The election was administered by a four-tiered election
administration consisting of the Central Election Commission (CEC),
16 Territorial Election Commissions (TECs), 207 District Election
Commissions (DECs) and 9 725 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs).
16 The CEC Chairperson and two members are appointed by the President,
while the Senate and the Majilis appoint two CEC members each. Lower
level commissions are appointed by local councils based on proposals
from political parties. Each candidate could register up to three
proxies per precinct. Parties not represented in election commissions
could appoint a non-voting member to each of the lower level commissions.
17 According to the CEC, about 90% of commission members proposed
by opposition parties had been nominated; if their membership in
commissions was low, this was because some of those parties had
failed to come up with a sufficient number of candidates to fill
the posts in election commissions.
18 Election commissions at all levels handled the technical aspects
of the elections in a highly professional manner. Their sessions
were open to the public and media and they conducted a large-scale
voter awareness campaign. The CEC provided lower level commissions
with training and guidelines on various aspects of the process.
Commissions acted in a timely manner and respected the existing
19 Local executive bodies are in charge of compiling voters’
lists. A nationwide electronic voter register is maintained by the
CEC. On the eve of the voting day, the number of registered voters
was 9 181 700.
20 Candidates could be nominated through self-nomination or by
a public association. To qualify for approval by the CEC, the nominee
had to be a citizen of Kazakhstan by birth, at least 40 years of
age, fluent in Kazakh language and resident in Kazakhstan for at
least 15 years. In order to be registered, prospective candidates
had to submit at least 91 010 valid support signatures, pay an election
deposit of about €4 000, and produce tax declarations for themselves
and their spouse. Of the 22 original nominees, the CEC registered
21 Some candidates failed to pass the language test. There were
no clear criteria to evaluate the results of the test. It was widely
rumoured that the Kazakh language proficiency test was used by the
authorities to effectively filter out unwanted candidates. The signature
verification process lacked transparency. Territorial Election Commission
verification protocols contained no reasoning for the invalidation
of signatures. Candidates or their proxies were routinely not invited
to attend the verification. Some people are of the opinion that
candidates who were registered and thus allowed to run in the election
had been hand-picked to create an illusion of a competitive environment,
whereas there was none, since those candidates never challenged
the policies of the incumbent.
4 The campaign period
and media environment
22 Four candidates ran in this election: Mr Nursultan
Nazarbayev, the incumbent President, leader of the Nur Otan Party;
Mr Gani Kasymov, Senator, leader of the Party of Patriots of Kazakhstan;
Mr Jambyl Akhmetbekov, Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (CPPK);
Mr Mels Eleusizov, Chairperson of the Ecological Union Tabigat of
23 The incumbent did not campaign in person, delegating instead
this task to the Nour Otan political party. Throughout the campaign
period no distinction was made between the incumbent as a candidate
and his position as President.
24 The other candidates did not challenge the President and positioned
themselves as his supporters. Their campaigns, with the exception
of the CPPK, were low-key and barely visible outside Astana and
Almaty. The CPPK relied on its grass-root supporters and a network
of branches and used this campaign to promote the party’s image
with a view to the next parliamentary elections.
25 The campaign environment was somewhat lacklustre due to the
absence of contenders in real opposition to the incumbent. The Azat,
Ak Zhol and Ruhaniyat parties opted out of the election. Other political parties
abstained on the grounds that the election was called at short notice,
which impeded candidate registration and proper campaigning.
26 The Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (CPPK), along with
the Alga Party, backed by civil society groups, called for a boycott
of the election whose legitimacy looked questionable to them. The
nationwide media turned a blind eye to the boycott initiative. This
delegation held the opinion that the very short campaign period
was not conducive to a real competition.
27 While the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, this
freedom is effectively restricted by the manner in which constitutional
provisions protecting the honour and dignity of every person and
the criminalisation of defamation and insult may be used. Substantial
state subsidies undermine the independence of both state and private
media outlets. The blockage of websites, such as that of the independent
newspaper, the Respublika, is
a source of concern.
28 Broadcast and print media generally provided equal coverage
of candidates in the news. However, analytical election-related
programmes were conspicuous by their absence. Under the CEC guidelines, coverage
of the candidates in their institutional role cannot be regarded
as campaign coverage. As a result, the incumbent received more than
two hours of positive coverage outside the news programmes.
5 Complaints and
29 The Election Law does not establish a clear-cut complaints
and appeals procedure. There is no consistent interpretation of
the election dispute resolution process. The adjudication of election-related disputes
generally lacked transparency, due process and well-reasoned decisions,
which impaired prospects for any effective legal redress.
30 The CEC received 12 complaints before election day and did
not decide on any of them in a plenary session by voting as required
by law. The law also requires that all CEC decisions be posted electronically
and made public, but this was not the case in this election.
6 Election day –
vote, vote count and tabulation
31 On election day, voting took place in a calm and
relaxed atmosphere. The ad hoc committee welcomed the large number
of domestic political party and NGO observers who were present in
the majority of the polling stations observed.
32 Opening and voting procedures were duly followed in most of
the polling stations visited by Parliamentary Assembly observers.
The vote count was not as positively assessed due to lack of transparency and
failure to follow the established procedures.
33 We were informed that tabulation in many District Election
Commissions lacked transparency, with international observers being
restricted in their observation.
34 As a result of this election, Mr Nazarbayev obtained 96.15%
of the vote, leaving other contestants far behind (Mr Kasymov obtained
1.24%, Mr Akhmetbekov obtained 1.21% and Mr Eleusizov obtained 0.79%
of the votes cast). Turnout was 89.98%.
35 The outcome of the early presidential election in
Kazakhstan held on 3 April 2011 reflects the will of Kazakhstan’s
36 The ad hoc committee welcomes the political will of the Kazakh
authorities to organise more democratic elections and therefore
calls upon them to urgently address the shortcomings, in particular,
those relating to the legal framework, that are noted in this report.
37 The ad hoc committee welcomes the overall professionalism
and dedication of electoral administrators but calls for further
improvements in this area, not least with regard to vote count and
38 The ad hoc committee welcomes the more balanced media behaviour
compared to previous elections. However, in the light of the structure
of ownership and control of the mass media in Kazakhstan, the ad
hoc committee believes that the media should gain a greater degree
39 The ad hoc committee calls on the authorities of Kazakhstan
to implement measures with a view to improving electoral conditions
for all concerned.