International observers witness presidential election process in Kazakhstan
On Sunday June 9th, the people of Kazakhstan went to the polls to elect their new president and determine the future their country will take for the next five years. At 10:30 in the morning, First President Nursultan Nazarbayev made an appearance at the emblematic Schoolchildren’s Palace to cast his vote. He was greeted by journalists and international observers.
Meanwhile, at the Astana Opera, acting President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, exercised his democratic right to cast his vote and responded to questions from local and international media.
“We are committed to involve the youth in the decision-making of our country,” he said. “Today is an important day for our country as the whole world witnesses the unfolding of a democratic process.”
More than 8,000 polling stations were deployed across the country to accommodate for the nearly 11 million Kazakh citizens eligible to cast their vote on Sunday, including 1.5 million new voters who have turned 18 since the last election in 2015.
In the capital, despite the constant drizzle, thousands of people stood in line, plenty of them with their children, before entering the voting booths.
“I’m impressed by the organization of the electoral process here,” said Valeriu-Andrei Steriu, a member of the Romanian Parliament and observer in Nur-Sultan. “I noticed facilities for both, hearing- and seeing-impaired people. Definitely something to be learned from in other parts of the world.”
The Central Asian nation invited more than 700 international observers to witness the historic day, including 350 from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), and 350 from other international organizations, such as the Central European Initiative (CEI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“We have not noticed any abnormalities in any of the polling stations we visited,” reported Mr. Simon Kozaidze, Member of the Georgian Parliament and observer in Nur-Sultan. “If there were any issues we would of course include them in the protocol and minutes of our reports.”
Another observer, Mr. Daniel Alan Witt from the US, noted that no foreign cyber intervention had been reported. “We asked the parties and the candidates, ‘Do you have any concerns about foreign interference?’ And they said no. Given what’s been going on in the world, you’ve got to be vigilant. But no one was expressing concerns.”
On Saturday June 8th, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roman Vassilenko, spoke with the international press about the importance of the elections as the young nation continues its building process via democracy. “For us it’s important that all the people in Kazakhstan exercise their right to choose who their leader is.” He talked about the “multi-vector” foreign policy he expected to see after the election, with continued good relations with the country’s “near and far” neighbors. When asked about the main challenges ahead he said, “It’s not a country without its flaws and difficulties – we all know about them – for example corruption, lack of development in rural areas. These ought to be the areas of focus for the government.”
On Sunday, some peaceful demonstrations took place in the cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan. When asked about them, the candidate representing the business community, Ms. Daniya Yespayeva from the Zhol party, said she did not yet know the origin of the demonstrations but that she supposed they were linked to social and economic mobility in the country. “I hope the next president, whoever it turns out to be, addresses this issue,” she said.
According to news agency AFP, several protesters were detained, as well as some journalists who were later released. After casting his vote, Mr. Tokayev replied to the media, “I believe presidential elections are not meant to be a battleground. They are not an excuse for confrontation.”
There were a total of seven candidates running up for the Presidency of Kazakhstan. The preliminary exit polls in the early hours of Monday morning showed Mr. Tokayev with 70.13% of the votes, and Amirzhan Kossanov in second position with 15.39%.
Updated: June 10th
On the morning of Monday, June 10th, the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan held a press conference for local and foreign media to present the preliminary results of the Presidential elections held on Sunday June 9th.
The members of the committee reported on the number of polling stations (more than 8,000 across the country). They also provided details about all the facilities offered in different polling stations to ease the voting process fo physically impaired Kazakh citizens.
Preliminary voting results per region (oblast) and major city were provided, candidate by candidate. A list of all the requests for information and clarification received by the CEC were also noted and briefed upon.
The same day, in the afternoon, acting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, welcomed the media in one of the rooms of the beautiful Presidential Palace or Ak Orda. He began by congratulating the other six candidates. “I am committed to a mandate of truth for the next five years,” he said, in front of more than 100 journalists. He was grateful to the international observers who had witnessed the many aspects of the election process in Kazakhstan.
When asked about the countries involvement in China’s Belt and Road initiative, Tokayev noted that China would not be able to develop the project without close collaboration with Kazakhstan. “We are open and we are promoting foreign investment,” he said. “We have 300 billions of investment from abroad. In July there will be an important meeting with investors. The business climate is good”.
Mr. Tokayev finished the press conference by stating that he planned to conduct an open communication policy holding Q&A sessions with the media as frequently as possible.
The President’s first trip abroad will be to Kyrgyzstan on June 14th, followed by a trip to Tajikistan on June 15th.