Monday, August 20, 2007

Slow progress in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan went to the polls over the weekend to elect a new Parliament under recently passed constitutional amendments. As expected, the election failed to meet international standards; Kazakhstan has never had free and fair elections since independence. This isn't good, and they should do better, but at the same time it would be a mistake to dismiss this as the usual Central Asian sham. Instead, Kazakhstan slowly seems to be making progress towards democracy.

Exhibit A is the OSCE observer's reports. In 2005, the OSCE observed Kazakhstan's presidential elections,and reported

[u]nauthorised persons interfering in polling stations, cases of multiple voting, ballot box stuffing and pressure on students to vote... during the count, observers saw tampering with result protocols and a wide range of procedural violations.
This time round, the problems were rather different. Instead of the overt fixing and thuggery, problems were primarily to do with media access and the legal framework imposing barriers to democratic participation and accountability. There were problems with the count, which was
assessed negatively in over 40 per cent of polling stations visited, mainly due to procedural problems and lack of transparency
But things seem to be a long way from the outright fraud seen last time. The OSCE was even cautiously positive, saying
Not withstanding the concerns contained in the report, I believe that these elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution towards a democratic country.
The road to democracy is slow (it took us 500 years to get there), but the Kazakhs at least seem to be moving in the right direction. And with another 20 years or so, perhaps they'll manage to do it properly.

The OSCE's preliminary report can be found here [PDF].