Indian observers to monitor snap parliamentary polls in Kazakhstan

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By Ashok Dixit

New Delhi, Mar.18 (ANI): India will be sending two observers to oversee and report on the March 20 snap parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan.

In an interview to ANI on Friday, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to India Bulat Sarsenbayev said elections would be held to elect members of the Mazhilis (Lower Chamber) as well as for members of the Maslikhat or local municipalities.

Hailing India’s long-term support to Kazakhstan and the expanding bilateral relationship between the two countries in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to his country in July last year, Ambassador Sarsenbayev said New Delhi has agreed to send Mrs. Saleema Singh, Chief Election Commissioner of Madhya Pradesh and Inderveer Singh, Editor of the Business Central Asia as international election observers for the March 20 polls.

“This election is a very important event for the people of Kazakhstan. Kazakh citizens living in Delhi will also come to vote at the embassy. This election is important for both political as well as economic reasons. We were scheduled to hold the elections in autumn (November -December 2016), but our government and our president (Nursultan Nazarbayev) came to a view that holding two elections towards the end of the year would be very expensive and an economic drain,” Ambassador Sarsenbayev told ANI.

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The Kazakh envoy further revealed that the parliamentary elections being held this time is unique in the sense that they would be party-based rather than people-based i.e. six political parties would publish the list of their contesting candidates and the vote would be cast for these candidates.

He said that the 98 directly-elected members of the Mazhilis would be elected from a single nation-wide constituency via proportional representation with a seven percent electoral threshold. He said the seats would be allocated using the largest remainder method, and added that if the parties have equal largest remainders, the party that registered first would be awarded the parliament seat. He further said that if only one party crosses the threshold, the party with the second highest number of votes would be awarded at least two seats.

Ambassador Sarsenbayev said that the Assembly of People, a body selected by the president, elects a further nine members.

The Kazakh envoy revealed that about 10,825 candidates would be contesting for seats in the Maslikhats (local legislatures), and all of them were busy making last minute appeals to voters across the nation.

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He said that the six parties vying for the 98 Mazhilis seats were the President Nursultan Nazarbayev-led Nur Otan Party, which was a dominant presence till the dissolution of the Mazhilis on January 20, 2016; the right-centrist and pro-business Ak Zhol Democratic Party; the Communist People’s Party; the left of centre agrarian-based Auyl Party; the National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) and the centrist Birlik (Unity) party.

Apart from the two Indian observers, he informed that the Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan has announced 813 other registered international observers to satisfy global opinion about the elections being held in a democratic, transparent, free and fair manner. He added that the foreign ministry of Kazakhstan has accredited 140 foreign reporters to cover the upcoming vote.

“As an ambassador, this is an important event for Kazakhstan as we are electing a parliament for five years. Our president announced five institutional reforms (1) formation of a modern, professional and independent public service (2) Strengthening rule of law, reforming property rights, improving conditions for entrepreneurial activity and protecting contractual obligations (3) Diversified industrialisation and economic growth (4) Further strengthening a common Kazakhstan identity based on citizenship and equal rights and (5) Transparency and accountability of the state. Kazakhstan is a presidential republic going in for democratic reforms, and is aiming for more powers for the parliament and the government. This is part of the overall move towards the democratisation of Kazakhstan,” Sarsenbayev said.

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With President Nazarbayev making it very clear that Kazakhstan faces a difficult time in the coming months and years, the campaign for what has been a low-key election, kicked off formally on February 20 this. It has provided the opportunity for a public debate on the direction the country will take and the priorities that it sets for itself for the future and the decisions and policies that it introduces to achieve them.

Kazakhstan’s commitment to international monitoring can be gauged by the fact that the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has already put in place a core 40-strong team and will be joined by observers from the Council of Europe, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and several interested countries. Each of them will be given the help needed to see for themselves how the elections are conducted.

Preliminary results will be announced two to three days after the elections. (ANI)

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