Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Opposition ousted in Kazakhstan

NO SEATS Critics said the 7 percent threshold for gaining seats was unfairly tough on the opposition, while also slamming the lack of term limits for the president

AFP , ASTANA

The party of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev won a landslide 88 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections, leaving the opposition with no seats, the central election commission said yesterday.

The president's Nur Otan party got 88 percent while neither the opposition Social Democratic Party or its more moderate rival Ak-Jol surpassed a 7 percent threshold for gaining seats, said election commission head Kuandyk Turgankulov, reading out preliminary results.

The latter two parties received 4.62 percent and 3.27 percent of the vote respectively at Saturday's elections, he said.

"If these results stand, Nur Otan would hold all 98 seats" that were up for election, he told journalists.

The results appeared to jar with the authorities' stated aim of opening up Kazakh politics to more dissenting voices through constitutional reforms made earlier this year.

An assessment of the vote's fairness was due later from the Western-dominated election monitoring body the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The recent constitutional reforms increased the number of seats in parliament, prompting officials to predict that opposition parties would get at least some seats.

But critics had said the 7 percent threshold for gaining seats was unfairly tough on the country's fledgling opposition.

They also criticized another provision in the reforms allowing Nazarbayev to stand for re-election an unlimited number of times.

No Kazakh election or referendum has been judged free and fair by Western observers since the country broke from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The constitutional overhaul was partly aimed at giving substance to a bid by Kazakhstan to hold the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE.

A total of 98 seats were up for election in Saturday's vote. The remaining nine seats are appointed by another body, the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan.

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