Hundreds Protest Kazakh Election Results

Posted January 17th, 2012 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of people protested Tuesday in Kazakhstan against the alleged rigging of elections that gave a huge parliamentary majority to President Nursultan Nazarbayev's ruling party.

Supporters of the opposition All-National Social Democratic Party rallied in the city of Almaty, voicing their displeasure with the results of Sunday's election.

There was no sign of violence, and police officers kept their distance from the protesters.

Official election results show Mr. Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party won 81 percent of the vote. Two other pro-Nazarbayev parties — Ak Zhol and the Communist People's party — won seats for the first time. Nur Otan had held every seat in parliament.

On Monday, Mr. Nazarbayev said his party's landslide victory is a sign of support for his government after last month's deadly protests.

But observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Monday criticized the election, saying it excluded any real opposition. The OSCE said the polls did not meet basic democratic principles.

Kazakh officials are disputing the OSCE findings, saying the election was open and transparent.

Sunday's elections were held a month after a protest by laid-off government oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen turned violent, leaving at least 15 people dead.

Such anti-government violence is rare in Kazakhstan, where, despite a lack of free speech and human rights, the country's oil wealth has brought a higher standard of living than in most other Central Asian former Soviet states.

Mr. Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan's only president since it gained independence in 1991.