Kazakhstan’s presidential election was monitored by observers from foreign countries, international organisations and representatives of foreign media. Kazakh civil society and the National Public Commission for the Control of the Election (ROKKV) of the President of Kazakhstan, closely observed the electoral campaign in all its stages. Nurlan Yerimbetov, chairman of ROKKV discussed how this work was carried out and what conclusions domestic observers have drawn on the election.
The first thing to note is that the turnout was unusually high. Our international colleagues also said it was unprecedented; it is a Kazakhstan record. …
In our work and in the work of [central and local] election commissions, local authorities, various nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), the emphasis was on ensuring maximum turnout; we explained that everyone’s voice is important. It is gratifying that the message was received by the people of Kazakhstan and we saw the highest activity – people came to the polling stations before they were opened and there were long queues. The flow of citizens wishing to vote did not stop until closing time. People came to the stations as if on holiday in families, they took children with them. … Such a high turnout attests to the strength of Kazakhstan’s identity, civic responsibility and care about the future. Many foreign observers, with whom I met very often in the last few days, said they had never seen such a turnout. … Of course, this testifies that the work was well done by the organisers of the election. … It was nice to see on April 26 that this colossal work led to equally impressive results.
The National Public Commission began its work on March 5. What were the functions of the commission?
The National Public Commission for the entire electoral period [of this election] was monitoring the implementation of the election legislation of the country, the pre-election headquarters of candidates, election commissions and the media. Members of the commission were working to ensure equal conditions for all candidates participating in the electoral process, to help avoid so called black PR to create open public dialogue platforms for building close cooperation with the government, the media, political parties and international missions. What we emphasised in the course of monitoring was legitimacy, openness and transparency.
Of course, we worked with our observers, so they clearly know their rights and responsibilities in order to understand what needs attention in their work. We provided them with all reports about the conduct of the last election, so that they could study them. So that observers could effectively and competently work in the field, we made special information booklets, where we did not include complex extracts from laws, but concisely presented information as an infographic, in brief comments and guidance. The website www.bakylau.kz was created, which also had information on the activities of the commission.
In order to expand social control and legitimate and transparent elections, commission branches were set up across the country and an extensive network of observers from among citizens was organised. I’d like to emphasise that in this election, on election day, we provided full coverage of observers at absolutely all polling stations across the country. (Previously we were able to provide coverage at 50 – 70 percent).
Traditionally, observers make some formal conclusions or statements after an election campaign …
Yes, indeed, upon completion of our observations a report will be drawn up, where the members of the National Public Commission will give their assessment of the electoral campaign, but now I can say that no one has any doubts about the fairness of the elections – in their results, in how voting took place or the election campaign.
As for the equal conditions for all participants in elections – they were created starting from the nomination of the candidates. The same trend continued during the campaign period, when the three candidates were identified. I met with their staffs and representatives, and they noted that every candidate was totally free in his actions and could meet with potential voters to conduct propaganda work. All media assured their equal representation. …
There were no complaints on the information support of elections, which is excellent. This issue is the first in all the media in Kazakhstan, the Internet, social networks. Plus the presidential elections in our country were covered by about 200 foreign journalists from 37 countries. This testifies to the great interest of the international community in what is happening in our process. … I would say that we can be proud of the recent election in Kazakhstan for sure.
Members of the National Public Commission held a lot of meetings with foreign observers. What are their impressions?
We are always open to cooperation with foreign observers. It’s pretty useful and interesting to look at our country and processes occurring in it from the outside.
Personally, I have met with representatives of the observation mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), observers from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. We held informal conversations, we talked not only about elections, but about Kazakhstan in general, the people of our country, and so on.
During these meetings, I was waiting for some critical remarks, but I did not hear specific comments from observers on any stages of the campaign. On the contrary, everyone noted the openness of the electoral campaign, the high level of organisation, the increased activity of our civil society.
The observers, travelling around our country in the cities and villages, vividly discussed the development of the country. Many of those who were in Kazakhstan for the last presidential election were surprised and amazed at the progress we managed to make in such a short period of time.
Over 9,700 polling stations were open around Kazakhstan. How many participants are in the commission?
We managed to bring to this work about 10,000 people. We recruited people from the activists of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan, which unites about 500 NGOs across the country.
It is particularly gratifying that a lot of young people were among those willing to join the commission. We actually paid special attention to attracting young Kazakhs. They, more than anyone else, could bring to their peers the importance of voting. So, the participation of youth in such processes is a measure of how civic engagement has increased, how a proper understanding is really important.
This is your second presidential election campaign. Tell me, what is the unique to this election?
For all of us, this election was eloquent proof of cohesion in our country. It is no coincidence that the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan proposed the initiative. This brought a special spirit of harmony and unity to the campaign.
The election fulfilled its consolidating function: people really rallied together to determine the fate of their country and to choose their leader.