ASTANA – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened an election observation mission on Feb. 8 following an official invitation from Kazakhstan’s leadership and met with the Kazakh authorities as the country prepares to hold an early parliamentary election on March 19.
The mission, headed by Eoghan Murphy, a former Irish minister, consists of a core team of 11 international experts based in Astana and 32 long-term observers, who will be deployed throughout the country starting Feb. 17. ODIHR also plans to request 300 short-term observers arrive several days before the election day.
During a Feb. 8 press conference, Murphy said the observers would closely monitor all aspects of the elections, from the conduct of the campaign to election-related legislation, respect for fundamental freedoms, media coverage, and election dispute resolution.
“Our work covers such areas as the implementation of the legal framework, administrative preparations and training of election officials, voter and candidate registration, campaign activities, the media environments and media coverage, and the participation of women,” said Murphy.
The mission will assess the conduct of the elections for its compliance with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections, as well as with the national legislation.
They will also assess the implementation of previous ODIHR election recommendations.
Most recently, the ODIHR has previously deployed its election observation groups to Kazakhstan, for the constitutional referendum on June 5 and the presidential election on Nov. 20.
The head of the ODIHR mission conducted several meetings with the government and electoral authorities to introduce the ODIHR team and explain the mission’s activities.
During the meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko on Feb. 7, Murphy was briefed on President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s political and socio-economic reform agenda and the new amendments to the country’s electoral legislation that entered into force on Jan. 1.
Vassilenko assured observers the government would provide all conditions to ensure the proper and effective work of the observers.
He also expressed hope that the ODIHR’s election observation mission would provide an objective and unbiased assessment of the election campaign.
Murphy said the primary goal of the missions is to assist the inviting nation in improving their electoral system and adopting best practices.
The ODIHR mission met with the Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Nurlan Abdirov on Feb. 8.
Abdirov expressed his gratitude to the ODIHR mission for its constant attention to the election campaigns in Kazakhstan and assured officials the elections would be conducted in a safe and fair environment.
“We already know many of the members of your delegations. I hope your stay in Kazakhstan will be fruitful and pleasant in every respect. For our part, as before, we will create all conditions for the full, open, and transparent work of your mission in our country,” said Abdirov.
He also invited the mission members to participate in the regular CEC meetings. “We are ready to work daily, as we did in the previous campaigns. We are open and available,” he said.
The chairman also stressed the importance of training election officials and educating other electoral process participants, including political parties, media representatives, non-governmental organizations, youth, and people with disabilities.