ASTANA – The National Public Commission for Control of Elections has promised to recruit the single largest group of observers, up to 10,000 well-trained individuals, for the April 26 Kazakhstan presidential election. As a result, it would be able to cover each of 9,741 polling stations across the ninthlargest country in the world.
The non-governmental association, also known under its Russian acronym ROKKV, was established in 2005 by a group of prominent civil society figures. Chaired by the head of the Kazakh Civil Alliance Nurlan Yerimbetov, the ranks of its 18 members currently include lawyers, professors, journalists, business people, leaders of NGOs and artists.
Among the commission’s goals, as stated on its website, www.bakylau.kz, are “organisation of observation activity at all stages of an electoral campaign,” assistance in “implementation of citizens’ and candidates’ constitutional rights at the elections, securing transparency of an electoral process and free expression of voters’ will, improvement of electoral laws and fighting against use of black PR,” as well as “raising the level of legal culture among the electorate.”
For the presidential election, the commission has updated its memos for both observers and voters and printed colourful brochures and booklets describing in detail the functions and rights of those involved in the electoral process.
The commission has announced that it has designated approximately 400 of the observers as long-term watchers. They have been charged not only with inspecting the campaign on voting day but also the progress several weeks before the date to signal all violations and errors in advance to the electoral authorities, candidates, media and the general public.
The main activity, however, has been conducting intensive trainings and seminars for the largest group of short-term observers across the nation.
“The commission includes people with their own views and experience in this field. Today we have shaped a [good] team in the entire country,” said Yerimbetov in a March 26 interview with Bnews.kz.
“Our main objective is to train the observers: how to do observation, how to act in full accordance with the law and without creating [unnecessary] conflicts … staring with the beginning of the campaign and finishing with the day of election,” he further clarified.
In the course of the latest electoral campaign, Yerimbetov and the commission members have met several times with the candidates’ campaigns, international observers and the Central Electoral Commission to discuss their mandate and share their views to ensure the campaign is properly conducted.
To publicise its activities, the commission has also maintained a lively presence on social media. A popular political commentator and editor-in-chief of the website Vlast.kz Slava Abramov commended the commission’s work, according to the Kazakhstan Today news agency’s April 20 report.
In his view, “that the public commission [ROKKV] plays a role in observing the election is a big advantage [for the campaign], since they are waging a large amount of work not only in observing the vote on the polling day but also on all [preparatory] processes.”
“They also make an important point of training observers. I believe the presence of a large number of trained observers will help [a lot], as we will be having a parliamentary election next year. It is very important that they do outreach among the population, as well as the fact that the observation process is initiated from within the country,” said Abramov.
“The public commission’s task is to uncover the violations in the course of the voting process and assist in tackling them. Obviously, no one is interested in violating the law but the commission’s tasks are … to good-naturedly point out the problems and try to prevent them,” said political analyst Daniyar Ashimbayev.
According to the Central Electoral Commission, Kazakhstan has more than 9.5 million adult citizens eligible to cast their vote at one of the polling stations established for the upcoming election, where 69,755 members of electoral commissions of all levels will be engaged in counting ballots.
Nearly 20,000 Kazakh citizens are expected to vote at 65 polling stations which will be opened at the nation’s diplomatic posts around the world.