Technical Election Assessment, March 1994

Publication Date: 
28 Nov 1994

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INTRODUCTION

The Code on Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan [hereafter, the "Election Code"; the "Code"] was adopted by Presidential Decree on December 9, 1993. Immediately thereafter Parliament was dissolved, approximately one year prior to the end of its normal term. A call for new elections to the Supreme Council was ordered as were the premature elections of new members to all oblast and local councils. The date for the elections throughout the Republic was set for 7 March 1994 at which time Supreme Council, as well as oblast and local council elections were held simultaneously. These elections represented a new wave in Kazakhstan's political thinking, and bolstered the momentum of the Republic's transition toward democracy in very real terms.

These elections represented a number of important firsts. These were the first really competitive multi-candidate elections in Kazakhstan's history. The former Parliament was elected in 1990 in what was basically an uncontested process which conferred the majority of seats to members of the Communist Party. In the 1994 elections 692 candidates competed for 135 single mandate seats. An average of 5 candidates appeared on each constituency ballot.

For the first time all members of the Supreme Council will be full time professional members who will be precluded from holding any other elected, administrative, commercial, or entrepreneurial post.

For the first time, the system of ballot access was opened to allow candidates to be nominated by public organizations, political parties and movements. It was also the first time that citizens could present themselves as self-nominated candidates. In fact, candidates in the 1994 Supreme Council elections were nominated by 3 political parties, 2 political movements and approximately 20 other public organizations. Independent candidates numbered 331.

The election system incorporated provisions intended to provide equal opportunities for parties, public organizations, and candidates to effect their campaigns on an equal basis.

A formal administrative structure was established to oversee the conduct of elections in Kazakhstan. The Central Electoral Commission ["CEC"] was organized as a permanent agency independent of other government bodies or public associations.

These elections heralded Kazakhstan's conclusive emergence into the international community as a truly independent state. As the first elections conducted under a new Constitution, they also represented the beginning of a new era for a country emerging from dominance by Russia under the Soviet Union and a long history of one-party rule.

The enormity of the task facing officials in preparing for these historic elections cannot be understated. The fact that the Central Electoral Commission was able to conduct elections in a difficult transition period marked by a complex web of political, economic, and ethnic circumstances, and in the face of considerable commodities shortages, was a triumph in itself. The process involved the coordination of nearly 90,000 election officials in 10,224 polling sites to serve Kazakhstan’s population of 17 million, a country that is 7th largest. Moreover, the time period between the actual enactment of the new Election Code and election day was just 90 days. Throughout the process there was a considerable degree of transparency. At the invitation of the President 125 independent representatives from 24 countries and 5 international organizations observed the course of the elections.  

In view of the magnitude of the challenges being undertaken and of the fact that a new Election Code was being implemented for the first time, it would have been unrealistic to assume that no problems or irregularities would be encountered along the way. However, throughout its stay the IFES team was impressed with the positive indications of the full, on-going commitment of the Central Electoral Commission and other participants to continue to build on the strengths of the new electoral system and to its weaknesses. It is in support of their efforts and in the spirit of continuing cooperation that the IFES team offers this report.

Throughout the report the team identifies the strengths of the system and the positive aspects of the process which should serve as the foundation on which the CEC and lawmakers can continue to build. The legal framework is discussed as it relates to each specific component of the process. The report includes discussions of the comprehensive manner in which the CEC prepared a strategy for carrying out the legal mandates of the Election Code and defined administrative procedures intended to fill in the gaps left unanswered by the Code itself. The positive aspects of administrative management and communications are identified, as is the openness and transparency with which the election was conducted.

The team has also tried to analyze some of the weaknesses of the electoral system which had not been anticipated when the Election Code was drafted, and which only came to the fore as officials attempted to implement the new code for the first time. Rather than placing an emphasis on the difficulties and irregularities which occurred, the team has tried to examine the factual aspects of the issues involved, and to analyze the factors that caused them. Wherever possible the team has also presented potential remedies for the consideration of officials who will continue their work in the further development of the electoral process.

As Kazakhstan continues to move forward in its democratization efforts, it is important to recognize that no democratic election system is static. It is a continually evolving process. The experience gained through the successes and, indeed, the failures of each "electoral exercise" provides a sound foundation on which an even stronger electoral process can be nurtured.

The 1994 elections have set an historic precedent. This profound achievement is a tribute to the commitment and competence of the thousands of people who contributed to the election's success and. to the citizens of Kazakhstan who have forged a new beginning through the democratic process.

Throughout the weeks immediately preceding the elections, IFES team members had the opportunity to meet extensively with members of the CEC and lower level electoral commissions. The team also met with representatives of the parties, individual candidates, oblast and city administrators, civic and trade union activists, representatives of the legal community and the media, as well as members of various international delegations who were present in advance of the elections and who arrived to observe the elections themselves. In every instance and encounter, the IFES team was impressed by the candor and unselfish cooperation with which they were greeted. Time and information was generously provided, questions were answered promptly and candidly, and there appeared to be a genuine interest in the open sharing of views. The IFES team wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the members of the Central Electoral Commission, to all the election participants, and in particular to the citizens of Kazakhstan for their commitment, cooperation, and warm hospitality.

Read the Full Report.