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US Cites Serious Shortcomings in Kazakhstan Election

The U.S. State Department said Monday there were serious shortcomings in parliamentary elections held Saturday in Kazakhstan that were swept by the ruling party of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Despite the problems, U.S. officials say there were some signs of progress in the conduct of the vote. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The United States has joined the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe in its overall criticism of the Kazahk election, in which no opposition candidates won seats in parliament.

But it agrees with the OSCE observer mission that the election still represented a modest step forward for democratic development in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.

Official returns from the Saturday election showed the ruling Nur Otan party getting 88 percent of the total vote and winning all 98 contested seats in the lower house of parliament.

Neither of the two main opposition parties managed to clear the seven percent vote threshold to gain representation.

The final nine seats in the 107-member parliament were chosen by the Assembly of the People, a body entirely appointed by President Nazarbayev, who has run the country since 1989.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the Kazakhstan central election committee had worked to increase transparency and integrity, and that the pre-election campaign period represented progress over previous polling.

But Gallegos said U.S. officials agree with the OSCE that the overall process did not fully meet the international standards to which the Kazakh government had committed itself:

"There were serious shortcomings, including legal provisions such as a high threshold of seven percent for party representation in the parliament, the process by which victorious parties chose deputies from their list, and the fact than an unelected body appoints nine of the 107 seats in the lower house of parliament," he said. "So we hope that government of Kazakhstan will address these shortcomings as it continues to reform the elections laws, and promptly and fairly resolves any complaints and appeals related to violations of that law."

Opposition politicians claimed fraud in the vote count and said the ruling party's tally of nearly 90 percent of the vote could not have occurred in a truly free election.

The OSCE mission that observed the vote said its monitors found flaws in the vote court in more than 40 percent of the polling stations they visited.

The opposition previously held one seat in the parliament.

President Nazarbayev was quoted as saying it was unfortunate that none of the opposition parties was able to pass the seven percent barrier, but that the effectiveness of the parliament will not suffer.