The presidential election that was held in Kazakhstan recently was marked by a substantial increase in civic engagement.
At the same time, during the voting process independent observers recorded substantial violations by the election commissions, which manifested themselves in certain cases in the obstruction of the observers’ work, stuffing of the ballots, and attempts to falsify the voting results during the counting of the votes.
According to the Central Electoral Commission, the current president, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, has won over 70 percent of the vote, with the opposition candidate coming in a distant second with 16 percent of the votes.
However, the data from the independent observers shows significant discrepancies with the official results. In the observers’ opinion, the official figures were significantly skewed in favour of the incumbent candidate and did not fairly reflect the actual voting results in those areas where they [observers] were present. According to the observers, the violations in the voting and the counting were on a massive scale, which might have had a significant impact on the election results.
There is documented evidence, including acts of violations submitted by observers and video footage confirming that the ballot boxes were stuffed, the use of the-called “carousel” (rotation) method, and an unfair count of the votes. Government officials also subjected independent observers to pressure, denied them access to the ballot stations, failed to provide them with the voting protocols, and drove them off from the ballot stations.
Data available to the observers suggests that had there been no violations as were noted by the observers, the election might have gone to a second round.
The results of the work of the independent observers suggest that the authorities used the so-called “administrative resource” in order to ensure the results they were seeking, in violation of the citizens’ right to participate in state governance through the formation of power by means of free and fair elections.
Aside from that, mass detentions and arrests took place on the 9th, 10th and 11th of June of citizens who were peacefully expressing their disagreement with the election and its results. The protesters called for a boycott of the election which they believed was dishonest and unfair. Some of them expressed their criticism of the current government.
According to official data, approximately four thousand people were detained during the peaceful protests, mainly in Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Some of them were released, some of them were fined, and most of them were placed under administrative arrest for a period from one to 15 days. Some journalists, including foreign ones, were also detained, as well as observers from the local and foreign human rights organisations, who were later released.
The observers from our human rights organisation noted that those protests were nothing but peaceful, and almost all of the detentions they observed were carried out without the need for coercion and without proper justification. In addition, while the police and special units were used, large numbers of random people were detained who did not participate in the protests, among them foreign nationals and minors. The police often used force against the peaceful protesters unreasonably. As a matter of fact, people were detained while peacefully and lawfully expressing their political convictions and disagreements.
Most of the detainees were tried in an expedited fashion directly at the police stations, often at night. The detainees were held for ten or more hours at the police stations, without food and water, without notifying their relatives, which unequivocally qualifies as ill-treatment. Normally, the attorneys had no access to them, which represented denial of their right to professional legal assistance. For instance, an attempt by attorney Zhanara Balgabayeva to gain access to the detainees in order to provide them with legal assistance ended up in a beating of her assistant by a police officer, which was recorded on video.
Of particular concern is the pressure the authorities put on the independent observers in the course of voting who had presented evidence of multiple falsifications. In the past several days a number of independent observers came under direct pressure from the national security and law enforcement agencies, including in the form of threats. In particular, in Almaty people passing off as officials of the Kazakh National Security Committee illegally apprehended an observer, Serik Abishev, and moved him to a safe house where they illegally held him for several hours, demanding that he refrain from initiating lawsuits against the members of the electoral commission who had falsified the results in favor of one particular candidate.
Therefore, in the course of these events the constitutional rights of the citizens to peaceful assemblies, to express their opinions, to free movement, to honest and fair trial, and to professional legal assistance, have all been violated. As far as the media workers were concerned, their professional rights were also violated.
All this suggests that the Kazakh authorities continue to fail to fulfil their international obligations in the area of protection of human rights.
To this end, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law:
– demands that the independent observers stop being persecuted, and stands ready to provide them with full support;
– protests against violations of the citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly (meetings, demonstrations, pickets, etc.);
– demands that an independent commission with the participation of representatives of civil society be established in order to carry out an analysis and evaluation of the actions by the police on 9-11 June 2019 which involved mass detentions of the citizens during peaceful protests, and to identify and hold accountable those who denied attorneys access to the detainees;
– demands that the person who attacked the assistant of attorney Z. Balgabayeva be identified and held accountable to the extent provided by the law;
– demands that a thorough audit of all and any communications regarding the violations of the electoral legislation during the presidential election of 9-11 June 2019 be carried out jointly with the independent observers, and anyone responsible for those violations be held accountable as provided by the law.
24 June 2019, Almaty