Kazakhstan: Diary of an Election Observer

12 Apr

Kazaxia has received the following contribution from Britain’s Lord Venal, who was recently in Kazakhstan to observe the presidential elections.

I have just returned from observing the elections in Kazakhstan’s marvellous new capital Astana and I feel compelled to put pen to paper to extol the great steps this young nation has taken in building a vibrant democracy in just 20 short years.

On election day I was kindly provided with a car and driver by the authorities so I could visit as many polling stations as possible. From what I observed in these polling stations, there is a great deal that my own country could learn in how to run an election.

At each polling station I was greeted by officials and was allowed to observe close up how free and fair these elections were. There were presents on offer for the first people to arrive – I myself was given a rather fine pair of rose-tinted spectacles. It was truly heartening to see so many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students queuing up to vote at seven in the morning. Can you imagine our lazy teenagers in Britain getting up so early on election day – and on a Sunday at that?

After watching a few people cast their votes, we were treated to a splendid feast with a table groaning with horsemeat sausage and the national dish besbarmak, a delightful combination of choice cuts of meat and sheets of pasta. This was washed down with some vodka shots that left me quite bleary-headed.

It wasn’t all feasting, though. My government-provided interpreter worked selflessly to give me the views of her fellow citizens, who all told me unanimously how pleased they were with the stability and prosperity their leader had brought to the country. She herself was a volunteer from the Nur Otan party, the only party that is represented in the country’s parliament.

As the polls closed, I was relieved to be driven back to my $500 a night suite at the Rixos Hotel as I was ready to burst and a bit tired and emotional after all that exemplary Kazakh hospitality.

The next day I was taken on a tour of Kazakhstan’s breathtaking new capital and saw a spontaneous display of support for President Nazarbayev in a local sports hall as he celebrated his astounding victory with hundreds of students.

The turnout, at around 90%, was phenomenal, which shows how successful Kazakhstan has been in creating its democracy. The huge majority for the President illustrates how popular Mr Nazarbayev is with the electorate. In Britain we can only dream about such turnout figures and levels of support for our politicians. I heartily endorse my fellow observer Daniel Witt, who put it thus:

Kazakhs turned out in droves on April 3 to re-elect President Nursultan Nazarbayev to another, five-year term. The overwhelming, 95.54 percent vote for him was not only an affirmation of Nazarbayev’s popularity but an indication of the electorate’s satisfaction with the direction of the country. Turnout was extraordinarily high with 89.9 percent of registered voters participating, up from 76.8 percent in the 2005 presidential election.

I would like to point out that, like my colleague Lord Waverley, we were in no way sponsored by the Kazakhstan government during this observation mission. My travel and accommodation were generously paid for by a group based in Northern Cyprus that is bidding for oil concessions in Kazakhstan.

Therefore, in my unbiased view, I can say that Kazakhstan is a true beacon of democracy in this troubled region. The Kazakhs can be proud of both their leader and their democracy.


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3 Responses to “Kazakhstan: Diary of an Election Observer”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kyrgyzstan: Diary of an Election Observer « Kazaxia - October 31, 2011

    […] a very fetching Kyrgyz hat and some bottles of vintage Kyrgyz congac. Fortunately, I had brought my rose-tinted specs with me from my visit to Kazakhstan in […]

  2. Kazakhstan Election 2012: Venal’s View « Kazaxia - January 17, 2012

    […] one has seen it all, but this election threw up a few surprises even for me. As I mentioned in my earlier report from the Presidential election last April, Kazakhstan has a splendid tradition of giving presents […]

  3. Kazakhstan Election 2012: Venal’s View « Kazaxia - January 17, 2012

    […] one has seen it all, but this election threw up a few surprises even for me. As I mentioned in my earlier report from the Presidential election last April, Kazakhstan has a splendid tradition of giving presents […]

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