Hey guys, we have a new President in Kazakhstan!
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has secured a new five-year term in office in a weekend election that has been sharply criticized by international monitors.
The Central Election Commission said today that provisional figures show the 70-year-old Nazarbaev taking 95.5 percent of the vote in a poll that drew turnout of nearly 90 percent.
Nazarbayev told supporters that the wide margin of his victory proves his country is “unified — all the nationalities, peoples, and religions of Kazakhstan.”
Oh, well, nevermind. Here’s what’s great about President Nazarbayev’s 95.5% victory: even Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov won his sham election by a far smaller margin—something like 89% of the vote. So Nazarbayev, apparently high off chairing the OSCE, felt it necessary to dispense with all pretensions of democracy.
So there’s no doubt the elections for Kazakhstan’s president were a total sham. But what kind of a sham is a surprisingly interesting question. The SCO insists the election was “free and transparent,” which isn’t automatically a lie. Given the many steps Nazarbayev’s thugs took to intimidate the opposition—so extensive that even opposition candidates said they were voting for Nazarbayev—it’s not hard to see people of Kazakhstan feeling so deeply constrained that there was no need for systemic fraud: by default, they would vote Nazarbayev.
However, OSCE monitors reported widespread ballot-stuffing, voter intimidation, and a lack of transparency. This, too, is perfectly understandable: it makes sense given the rampant thuggery Nur Otan engaged in before the vote. It’s possible reality could be a combination of the two: the SCO saw little wrong at its voting stations, and the OSCE saw truly worrying things at its monitoring sites. But more likely is the SCO really wanted to report a clean election, so it chose to report a clean election.
I missed this bit of the story when I spoke with Liam Cochrane, the host of Radio Australia’s ConnectAsia program. But even so, I think our discussion gets at some of the baseline problems both with Kazakhstan’s development as a whole and its specific problems with having a functional dictatorship.