Kazakhstan’s Election: Zhanaozen Allowed to Vote, Opposition Leaders Thrown Out
The riot-hit town of Zhanaozen will be casting ballots in Kazakhstan’s January 15 parliamentary election after all: A postponement of the vote there, announced on January 6, has now been overturned by the president. But several big names have been struck from the poll.
Nursultan Nazarbayev vetoed the postponement on January 10 after “he took account of the disquiet and concern of the inhabitants of Zhanaozen at the fact that by this Constitutional Council decision their electoral rights … were restricted,” his office said.
Zhanaozen will vote under a state of emergency ordered after at least 16 protestors were shot dead by security forces on December 16.
But as Nazarbayev moved to increase the legitimacy of the election by allowing Zhanaozen to participate, two of Kazakhstan’s best-known opposition leaders – Bolat Abilov, co-leader of the OSDP Azat party, and Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, a leading party member and journalist – were thrown out of the election, accused of irregularities in financial declarations.
OSDP Azat was not the only party affected: Vladimir Bobrov of the ruling Nur Otan party was also struck off, as were three candidates from smaller parties. However, OSDP Azat is the only genuine opposition party allowed to stand, and the expulsion of two of its leading lights deals a severe blow to its hopes.
The only other party critical of the administration that had been running, Rukhaniyat, was banned from participating last month over alleged irregularities in its party list.
Nazarbayev has said he called this snap poll to install a multi-party parliament in Kazakhstan, which has never held an election deemed free and fair by international observers. Only his Nur Otan party held seats in the last parliament, but due to constitutional amendments since the last election, in 2007, at least two parties will win seats this time because the second-place party is exempt from the 7-percent electoral threshold.