Nazarbayev re-elected as Kazakhstan President

Tue 28 Apr 2015

Nazarbayev re-elected as Kazakhstan President
The 74-year old Kazakhstan President Nursultun Nazarbayev has been re-elected with, according to official numbers, a staggering 97.7 percent of the votes. The head of the Kazakh Central Election Commission Kuandyk Turgankulov claimed the voter turnout was a record 95,2 percent. Nazarbayev, who assumed office in 1991 and has kept a tight grip on the country since, claimed that a vote for him in the 2015 Presidential elections is a vote “for the stability of the state” and the continuation of his policies.

Joke

Following the election results the long-serving President jokingly apologized for winning his re-election with 97.7 percent of the votes, saying it would have looked undemocratic for him to intervene to make his victory more modest. He was quoted as saying: “I apologize that for super-democratic states such figures are unacceptable. But I could do nothing. If I had interfered, I would have looked undemocratic, right?” Nazarbayev continued, saying that the Kazakhs  “demonstrated to the whole world that Kazakhstan's political culture means unity, responsibility.”

OSCE criticism

Nazarbayev’s statements greatly contradict those of the OSCE. Cornelia Jonker, head of the OSCE monitoring mission, said that voters were not offered a genuine choice between political alternatives. In fact, the incumbent’s opponents were actively praising him during their campaigning period. Additionally, several prominent critics of the government are either imprisoned or living in exile. According to the official report the current consolidation of political power challenges the development of political pluralism. Jonker also noted significant restrictions to the freedom of expression, as well as to the media environment.

Constitutional amendments


Even though Kazakhstan’s constitution limits the maximum amount of presidential terms to two, Nazarbayev is about to enter his fifth. This is because in 2007 the Kazakh Parliament approved a constitutional amendment which would allow Nazarbayev to seek re-election as many times as he wishes. This amendment applies specifically and only to Nazarbayev, in the original constitution the maximum of two presidential terms that is prescribed will still apply to all future presidents of Kazakhstan.

The Presidential elections were scheduled a year early following a decision by Nazarbayev. In a nationwide television address in February 2015 the President said he made the decision "in order to avoid an overlap of presidential and parliamentary elections, both of which are scheduled for 2016, which is unconstitutional." It is also argued that the early election was aimed at ending speculation about Nazarbayev's possible successor.

Sources: Reuters, Deutsche Welle, OSCE report, RFE/RL