Elections in Kazakhstan pass smoothly, but significant procedural violations observed in vote count - OSCE/ODIHR
ASTANA. March 20 (Interfax) - Voting in the Kazakh early elections to the Majilis and maslikhats has been smooth, but gross procedural irregularities have been observed in the vote count and tabulation of results, Eoghan Murphy, head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) Election Observation Mission, said.
"On election day, which was calm, with voting organized in a smooth manner, significant procedural irregularities were observed during the counting and tabulation process," Murphy said at a briefing on Monday in Astana.
The observers have constantly recorded discrepancies between the number of voters who voted and the official preliminary data on the voter turnout, he said.
For her part, Irene Charalambides, OSCE special coordinator and head of the short-term observer mission, said at the same press briefing that the elections that took place the previous day showed improvements, including those related to the electoral law, but that Kazakhstan needs further reforms.
"Democracy is a process that requires constant attention and dedication. We have noted some welcome improvements, including related to election laws, but Kazakhstan will only achieve the stated political goal of democratic development if far reaching reforms continue," she said.
"In particular, greater attention to protecting everyone's fundamental freedoms is needed. Most notably, the restrictive media space and limited campaign coverage did not match candidates' efforts to engage in a more dynamic contest," Charalambides said.
For his part, Reinhold Lopatka, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, said that in the recent elections "the increased competition, particularly with self-nominated candidates, is a significant development."
"However, legal and practical hurdles continue to detract from a fully open race among equals. In the future, the publication of results for each polling station will be important for improved transparency and public confidence," he added.
Elections to the Majilis, the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, and to the maslikhats, the local representative bodies of power, were held in Kazakhstan on Sunday.