International independent observers from the US came to Kazakhstan on March 17 to monitor the electoral process in the country. The group consisted of four members of the academic community from Washington, D.C: Wesley Alexander Hill (International Tax and Investment Center), Margarita Assenova (Jamestown Foundation), Kamran Bokhari (New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy) and Richard Weitz (Wikistrat Global Consultancy), who visited more than 70 polling stations in Astana and Almaty, as well as in Akmola and Almaty regions on election day.
In particular, Wesley Hill visited 18 polling stations, six of which were in the capital of Kazakhstan and 12 in Akmola region.
Based on the results of observations, the independent international mission of observers prepared a report in which they noted that the elections in Kazakhstan were good.
The observers reported that the elections were held in a competitive environment, as evidenced by the third place taken by a completely new Respublica political party.
"During the election campaign our team of observers talked to the leaders of political parties, independent candidates, voters and local election observers, and it was clear that the reforms resonated with a significant part of the population of Kazakhstan," said Hill.
The report says that elections in Kazakhstan represent a noticeable progress in democratization of the country and give impetus to transformation of political system of Kazakhstan from ‘super presidential’ structure to presidential republic, in which the Parliament and the Government will strengthen the rule of law.
Expanded ballot voting opportunities, the absence of an official presidential political party (as the president decided to end political party membership in 2019) and other achievements have indeed laid the groundwork for Kazakhstan's future progress toward a multi-party republic.
Last year's constitutional reforms and other changes have given political parties and civil society more leverage and thereby strengthened institutional checks and balances.
In particular, the reforms provided voters with greater choice by facilitating the registration of political parties, lowering the threshold for political parties to gain representation in parliament, and providing more opportunities for independent candidates by electing 30 percent of Mazhilis members in single-member districts.
"The electoral process at the polling stations we visited was generally well organized and transparent. Many chairmen of precinct election commissions openly interacted with us. The premises where the polling stations were located were primarily accessible to people with visual, hearing or mobility impairments.
A significant achievement of this vote was that at least thirty percent of the candidates on party legislative lists were women, youth, and people with disabilities. Detailed information about all parties and candidates was widely posted at polling stations and other public places. The atmosphere during the electoral period was calm, there were no law enforcement services at the polling stations" Hill.
Among the disadvantages noted that the large number of new candidates created a certain confusion among voters. In addition, the short campaign period (only 30 days, without the possibility to even announce the candidates in advance) did not give voters enough time to get acquainted with the candidates.
The international independent group of observers from the United States made a number of recommendations: to support new reforms, increase opportunities for young people and women candidates, provide better coverage and funding of public debates, increase the presence of political parties in rural areas, strengthen the enforcement of rules regarding financial violations of candidates, publicly explain the reasons for denial of registration of parties by the Ministry of Justice, provide media freedom to ensure open debates, professionalize training and regulations.