Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the Central Asian nation since 1989, threatened to block the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from monitoring elections.
“Again we see attempts to use instruments such as observer missions during national elections to apply pressure by one group of countries on another,” Nazarbayev told foreign ambassadors today in the capital, Astana, according to the state-owned Kazinform news service. “If it continues this way, we will be forced to reject these missions in the future.”
Nazarbayev, whose country chaired the OSCE in 2010, won a new five-year term last April with 95.5 percent backing. He was named “leader of the nation” two years ago, giving him power to dictate policy even after he retires. No election in Kazakhstan has ever been deemed “free and fair” by the OSCE, Europe’s democracy watchdog.
The president’s ruling party garnered 80.7 percent of the vote in a Jan. 15 election following the worst violence in Kazakhstan since the former Soviet republic won independence two decades ago. Riots broke out in December after an oil-worker strike over wages in an oil-rich region bordering the Caspian Sea in western Kazakhstan, killing 16 people and leaving more than 100 injured.
Kazakh police arrested opposition leaders Bulat Abilov and Amirzhan Kosanov on Feb. 25 when a second rally against the results of parliamentary elections was scheduled to be held, the National Social Democratic Party said in a Feb. 29 statement. Both politicians went on hunger strike to protest their arrests, the party said.
Russia, Kazakhstan’s closest ally, elects a president on March 4, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin predicted by polls to win enough support to avoid a runoff. Observers from the OSCE said Russia’s parliamentary vote in December lacked fairness and was marred by procedural violations.
The OSCE, which refused to monitor Russia’s presidential elections four years ago, applies “dual standards” in its approach, President Dmitry Medvedev said last September.
-- Editors: Paul Abelsky, Eddie Buckle
To contact the reporters on this story: Nariman Gizitdinov in Almaty at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at email@example.com