29th January 2005
While I know there were other elections, such as the Presidential one in Taiwain/RoC, the Kazakh 'elections' interest me because of their nature- a very much rigged system benefiting the ruling party and its business partners, allowing for very little meaningful relationship between the populace and the state.
Unsurprisingly the vote has already been criticized for irregularities, possible fraud, and other oddities. The results predictably landed President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan Party with a commanding majority in the chamber, securing 80.7% of the vote. Only two other parties manage to just get beyond the 7% threshold- the People's Communist Party and the 'business-friendly' Ak Zhol- the former being a harmless opposition outfit and the other closely tied to Nazarbayev through his son-in-law. Essentially token opposition.
A presidential election was also held earlier this year in the summer, giving Nazarbayev a 'landslide victory' with 95% of the vote. This vote was also criticized for its irregularities and lack of 'democratic process'. He has been president since Kazakhstan's independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nazarbayev was also Prime Minister and briefly First Secretary of the Communist Party of in the last years of the Kazakh SSR, overseeing its dissolution and end of Communism there. Nazarbayev however has remained in power through a combination of patronage and emphasizing his importance to both the United States and Russia- especially when it comes to regional security (ie terrorists) and oil. Nazarbayev like other strongmen points out that under his presidency Kazakhstan has been a 'beacon of stability' in Central Asia. He defended his policies in an op-ed published in the Washington Post.
In the past year, Kazakhstan had some upheavals within its oil industry by workers protesting over working conditions and pay in the oil regions of Kazakhstan, notably in the city of Zhanaozen. A recent protest resulted in the police using armed weapons to fight back against the striking oil workers. This city has essentially been under police control, though they were allowed to vote- for what little that matters.