STATEMENT of the Observers Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization regarding preparation and holding of the early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan

1

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (hereinafter — SCO or Organization), which is the world's largest trans-continental international organization, is actively involved in formation of a unique model of multilateral cooperation that meets the interests of all States in the region. The SCO's activities are aimed at maintaining peace, stability and security, joint development and improving the well-being of the people living in the SCO region.

One of the SCO's activities is to observe presidential and parliamentary elections. Since 2004, the SCO has organized and sent 47 missions for observations, including 10 to Republic of Kazakhstan.

For the first time, the need for international election observer mission of the SCO was felt in 2004 (the year of establishment of the SCO Secretariat). In September 2004, representatives of the Organization were invited to observe the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Since then, this area of cooperation has been gradually developing and has a positive impact on the promotion of democratic reforms in the SCO space.

At the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan (MFA of Kazakhstan), from June 2-10, 2019, the SCO Mission observed preparation and conduct of early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Mission considers the invitation as the desire of the Republic of Kazakhstan to ensure openness, transparency and democracy in the country's early presidential elections.

1. Composition of the Mission

The Mission included 25 observers — representatives of legislative, executive and electoral bodies of seven SCO member States, as well as officials of the SCO Secretariat and the Executive Committee, SCO RATS.

The Mission was headed by the Secretary-General of the SCO Mr. Vladimir Norov.

The Mission included:

Mr. Wang Zheng — Counsellor, Department of Europe and Central Asia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China;

Ms. Gulshat Asylbaeva — Deputy, Jogorku Kenesh (Legislative Assembly), the Kyrgyz Republic;
Ms. Ainur Osmonova — Deputy, Jogorku Kenesh (Legislative Assembly), the Kyrgyz Republic;
Mr. Kazi Imtiaz Ahmad — Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Republic of Kazakhstan;
Mr.Oleg Tsepkin — Member, Federation Council Committee, Russian Federation;
Mr. Yuri Meshcheryakov — Deputy, State Duma (the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation);
Mr. Alexander Klyukin — Member, Central Election Commission, Russian Federation;
Mr. Samadzoda Navruz Abdul Hamid — Chief of Staff of the Central Commission for elections and referendums of the Republic of Tajikistan;
Mr. Zayniddin Nizamkhojaev — Chairman, Committee of Senate of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan;
Mr. Imoet Hajiyev — Chairman, Committee of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan;

From the SCO Secretariat:

Mr. Vladimir Zakharov — Adviser, Ms. Minara Rakhanova — Advisor, Mr. Habib Munir — Adviser, Ms. Gulkayr Balbaeva — Senior expert, Mr. Li Wenxin — Expert, category — I, Mr. Sergey Smetannikov — Expert, category — I, Mr. Krishna Kengappa — Referent, Mr. Daniar Cherkayev — Referent, Mr. Baurzhan Imandosov — Referent.

From the Executive Committee, SCO RATS:

Mr. Jumkhon Giyosov, Executive Director, Mr. Amanbai Turdimatov — Deputy Director, Mr. Yulbars Sheraliev — Expert, M. Arthur Golovanov — Assistant Director, Mr. Daniyar Abdibaev — Referent.

2. Activities of the Mission

The Mission carried out its functions in accordance with SCO's regulations regarding "observer mission of the Shanghai cooperation Organization to presidential and/or parliamentary elections, and referendums", guided by principle of political neutrality, objectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of the State, and in strict accordance with the national legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The preparations for the Mission were started mid-April 2019. The SCO Secretary-General formed the Mission, and set up a working group of the SCO Secretariat to conduct an in-depth analysis of the electoral legislation and practice of elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as the activities of Kazakhstan media covering the early elections.

The Mission carried out its activities in accordance with the Concept paper of the SCO Observer Mission regarding observation of preparation and conduct of early elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The head of the Mission — the SCO Secretary-General and members of the Mission held official and working meetings with the leadership of the Central Election Commission (CEC), chairmen, secretaries and members of territorial and district election commissions, voters, representatives of political parties, local observers, heads and members of observer missions of foreign States and international organizations, and representatives of the media.

All the necessary conditions were created for the Mission for effective monitoring of preparation and conduct of early elections, which demonstrates the openness and transparency of the electoral process.

The members of the Mission were thoroughly acquainted with the work carried out by the CEC on the preparation and conduct of early elections, including their organization in the diplomatic missions of the Republic of Kazakhstan abroad.

All the findings and conclusions of the Mission are based on personal observations made by the members of the Mission and factual material gathered in preparation for the early elections and on the day of voting.

3. Legislative framework for conduct of early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The basis of the legislative framework on early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the constitutional law on " elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan" (dated September 28, 1995, № 2464), other national laws, as well as other normative legal acts and decisions of the CEC.

On April 9, 2019, in accordance with paragraph 3-1 of article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, it was decided to conduct early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan on June 9, 2019.

4. Innovations in electoral legislation of the Republic of Kazkahstan

The Mission conducted an in-depth analysis of the electoral legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The country has created all the necessary conditions for the subjects of the electoral process at the legislative level. Elections in Kazakhstan are held on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot and are based on the voluntary exercise of citizens ' electoral rights.

The Mission paid special attention to the innovations in improving the electoral legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and notes that it has undergone significant changes since the previous elections in 2015. In the period of 2017-2018, constitutional law "On elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan" was amended and supplemented seven times in order to improve it.

The Mission notes that according to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, citizens recognized by the court as incapacitated, as well as those detained in places of imprisonment by a court sentence, do not participate. However, persons under investigation were able to exercise their constitutional right (16 closed polling stations were organized for four thousand people).

The Mission noted that the changes and additions were aimed at further democratization and increased transparency of early elections, as well as the creation of favorable conditions for citizens to exercise their electoral rights.

5. Use of modern information technologies

The Mission notes the use of various information technologies and public platforms that promote transparency, transparency, public control, as well as the exclusion of the influence of administrative resources, in particular:

1)CEC information on the electoral process was published on social networks and information resources. 24 April 2019, the same information was disseminated by messengers Instagtam and WhatsApp.

2) Websites of local executive bodies and their contact centers provided information on the voting procedure at the location, addresses of voting premises, as well as other reference information.

3) the legal platform for monitoring the electoral process has been working on continuous basis. More than 3,000 lawyers of the Republican Public Association "Lawyers for fair elections" advised voters across the country and monitored the legitimacy of the electoral process in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the legality of early elections of the President of Kazakhstan.

4) For the purpose of public monitoring of the electoral process, an independent voluntary Association of Kazakhstanis "Amanat" functioned. It was composed of representatives of public organizations, the media, young people, experts and civic activists who contributed to the electoral process in following main areas: electoral readiness, voter awareness, knowledge about their own rights and responsibility of observers, honesty and transparency, open dialogue and equal cooperation.

5) the CEC accredited 300 representatives from 90 foreign media.

6. Candidates for the post of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan

7 candidates took part in the early elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan held on June 9, 2019:

1) Mr. Zhambyl Akhmetbekov — from the Communist People's Party;

2) Ms. Dania Espaeva — from the Democratic Party "AK Zhol" (Bright way);

3) Mr. Amirzhan Kosanov — from the National Patriotic Movement "Ult Tagdyry" (The Fate of the Nation);

4) Mr. Toleutai Rakhimbekov — from the People's Democratic Patriotic Party " Aul"

5) Mr. Amangeldy Taspikhov — from the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan;

6) Mr. Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev — from the People's Democratic Party "Nur Otan";

7) Mr. Sadybek Tugel — from the Republican Public Association "Uly Dala Kyrandary" (Eagles of the great steppe));

Requirements for presidential candidates are established by article 41 of the Constitution:

— citizen of the Republic by birth;
— not younger than forty years;
— fluent in the state language;
— living in Kazakhstan for the last fifteen years;
— having high education.
The constitutional law additionally establishes the requirement to have at least 5 years of experience in the public service or in elected public positions.

Thus, candidates from four political parties and three public organizations participated in the presidential elections in 2019.

For the first time, a woman contested in the presidential elections- Ms. Dania Espaeva from the Democratic Party "Akzhol".

7. Election campaign

Under the electoral law, registered candidates are guaranteed equal access to the media for election campaigning.

The Mission notes that the activities of the election campaign were carried out in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on the basis of transparency and wide awareness of citizens, in detail and comprehensively covered in the media.

The Mission notes that the early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan were held on a broad competitive basis with the active participation of representatives of civil society and the creation of favorable conditions for voters to make an independent and informed choice.

Candidates were given time for election campaigning on TV channels, radio channels, periodicals and internet resources of the country on equal terms. Printed campaign materials were also placed at polling stations, on billboards, billboards and banners.

According to paragraph 3 of article 28 of the Law on "elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan" announcement and publication of information about the size of payment, conditions and order of presentation of broadcast and print space to registered candidates for the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan held no later than 5 days before the start of the campaign (up to 5 May of the current year).

The Mission emphasizes that the CEC closely monitored compliance with the legislation when publishing information related to the election campaign for the early elections of the President of Kazakhstan. In particular, the CEC brought to the attention of the election commissions of the Republic of Kazakhstan guidelines for the search and analysis of materials with signs of violations.

In order to monitor compliance with the procedure and rules of voter information, the CEC approved the resolution of April 15, 2019 №13/240:

— Reference manual for territorial election commissions on preparation and holding of early elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan on June 9, 2019;
— Reference manual for precinct election commissions on preparation and holding of early elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan on June 9, 2019;
— Information poster "Consequences of violating of the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan on elections and the Republican referendum".

The Mission did not receive any complaints or comments regarding media coverage of the campaign.

According to the new norms of the constitutional legislation, pre-election campaigning can be carried out only after the end of the term of registration of presidential candidates. Prior to the introduction of these rules, it was possible to conduct pre-election campaigning from the date of registration of the candidate, i.e. after registration, each candidate had the right to start his pre-election campaign. This led to the fact that the campaign period for candidates could be different, since the registration of all applicants could not be made simultaneously.

We note that all candidates had equal conditions relating to the duration of the election campaign: the beginning of the end of the registration period established for all candidates (11.05.2019), end zero hours local time the day prior to the election day (07.06.2019).

The procedure of pre-election campaigning through the media and information support of early elections of the President of Kazakhstan is defined. Resolution of the CEC No. 12/203 dated 25 August 2018 on " amendments to the resolution of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Resolution No. 90/178 dated 25 June 2007 on " approval of the Rules of election campaigning through the media and information support of elections of deputies of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan elected by party lists and elections of deputies of maslikhats of the Republic of Kazakhstan" was adopted.

These Rules define the procedure for pre-election campaigning through the media, specify the procedure and conditions for the provision of airtime and print space for the speeches of candidates, political parties that have nominated party lists, with election programs funded by the state, as well as on a contractual basis.

In addition, the Rules determine the organization of control over the order of election campaigning and establish the place and terms of storage of records of television and radio programs (programs) containing election campaigning.

The norms establishing the period for the announcement and publication of information on the amount of payment, conditions and procedure for the provision of air and printed space under the contract by the relevant media are clarified: no later than five days before the election campaign. Previously, there was the following rule: no later than on the tenth day after the official publication of the decision on the appointment of elections.

Guarantees of equal conditions for candidates and political parties in the conduct of election campaigning have been strengthened. According to the new rules, information on the amount of payment, conditions and procedure for the provision of air and print space is posted on the internet resources of the Central and territorial election commissions.

Before the publication of information on the amount of payment, conditions and procedure for the provision of air and print space, the media cannot provide them for placement, distribution of campaign materials of candidates, political parties that have nominated party lists.

For the first time television debates were organised for the presidential candidates.

8. Preparatory work for the elections

The Mission notes that during the implementation of the Calendar plan of activities for the preparation and conduct of early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the CEC with election commissions at all levels carried out a large-scale comprehensive work aimed at ensuring the electoral rights of citizens.

In the Republic of Kazakhstan, three election commissions in Nur Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, 17 regional election commissions, 215 territorial and 9 968 precinct election commissions were formed. The total number of members of electoral commissions amounted to 69 509 people, including 43 945 employees of budget organizations, 2 413 retirees, 2 self-employed 401 and 103 of the student. It was planned to spend 77 per cent of the total budget for the elections on the salaries of the members of the electoral commissions, which is a positive incentive for the efficiency of the electoral commissions.

The CEC meetings were attended by observers from international and public organizations, representatives of candidates and the media. The agenda and decisions of the meetings were covered on the CEC website and in the media.

On April 15, 2019, a meeting of the CEC on the issue "On the organization of training of members of election commissions and other participants of the electoral process" was held in open format.

By CEC Resolution No. 13/240, the Plan was approved and realised for the organization of electoral training of members of election commissions at all levels.

The working hours of the points of reception of applications from citizens was increased, so that that voters had the opportunity to apply at a convenient time for them.

The Mission notes that the chairmen and members of the electoral Commission represented various political parties and public associations.

9. Conditions for voters with disabilities

Special attention was paid to the voting of voters with disabilities and elderly citizens.

The working group of the CEC together with public organizations and state bodies developed recommendations to ensure the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities during the elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

In addition, the local executive bodies assisted the electoral commissions in ensuring the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities by creating conditions for their unhindered access to voting facilities.

In some polling stations were provided sign-language interpreters, diflouro translators.

Citizens with disabilities could cast their votes in secret, without assistance (or using the assistance of a person of their choice). In the event that the voter could not come to vote, the precinct election Commission, at the written request of the voter, organized a vote in their places of residence.

It should also be noted that the results of the work of the CEC in 2018 on the implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the rights of citizens with disabilities during the extraordinary presidential elections were made:

1) Handbook in audio format "Information for voters with disabilities on elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan";
2) Methodical manual " Information for voters with disabilities on elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan";
3) Arrangement of special magnifiers for the visually impaired;

Thus, for the first time in the practice of the election campaign, comprehensive provision of the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities was carried out.

10. Voting at the location

The Mission notes that the citizens of Kazakhstan were given the right to vote at the location, not at the place of registration, that is, a voter who was in another city or district on the day of voting had the right to vote at his location. Mechanisms have been put in place to prevent the possibility of multiple voting.

11. The organization of the elections abroad

The Mission notes that the CEC carried out large-scale work on the organization of voting of citizens of Kazakhstan abroad on the election day. The CEC has inreased number of polling stations outside the Republic of Kazakhstan, including places of mass recreation and tourist areas.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has published a list of polling stations that will operate outside Kazakhstan on June 9 during the early presidential elections. At the foreign offices of Kazakhstan abroad, 65 polling stations were formed by the decision of the mayor of the capital on December 15, 2018. The largest number of sites abroad were opened in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Astrakhan and Omsk).

Voters could vote in the embassies of Kazakhstan in Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belarus, Brazil, Hungary, UK, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Egypt, Italy, Iran, Israel, India, Spain, Jordan, China, Canada, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Singapore, Turkey, France, Croatia, Switzerland, Thailand, Romania, Indonesia, South Korea, Finland, Japan.

Polling stations also operated in the Consulates General of Kazakhstan in New York, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kazan, consulates of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Antalya, Brest, Dallinn, passport and visa service of the MFA of Kazakhstan in Urumqi and the diplomatic mission of Kazakhstan in Bulgaria.

12. Polling day

On the day of the vote, the Mission was present at polling stations, it witnessed opening of polling stations, sealing of stationary and portable boxes, the voting process and the counting of ballots.
In order to obtain the most complete picture of the electoral process on the territory of Kazakhstan, the Mission observed in six cities of the country, namely in Nur Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Karaganda, Atyrau, Ust-Kamenogorsk, as well as in seven settlements of Akmola, Almaty, Karaganda, Turkestan, Atyrau and East Kazakhstan regions.

The day before and the day of voting, the Mission visited the 760 of the polling station.

The Mission notes the solemnity of the opening of the voting — the performance of the national anthem of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Mission's observers visited the polling stations without coordination with the Executive and electoral bodies. The selection of the polling station was carried out by each member of the Mission independently. Any obstacles in the vicinity of this or that part of the Mission was not created.
The Mission notes that all complaints filed by citizens were promptly resolved by election commissions, the CEC and the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan.

The Mission notes the active participation of citizens in the voting and the professional level of training of employees of precinct election commissions.

Members of the precinct election commissions provided the necessary conditions for the voting procedure; maintained impartiality in the voting process; provided comprehensive explanations on the issues raised; showed sensitivity and attention to voters, local, public and international observers, journalists.

The activities of the electoral commissions were qualified, transparent and independent.

In precinct election commissions documentary and information and reference books, magazines of registration of observers, methodical compilations, schedules of duties, schemes of evacuation and other documents were fully presented.

Everywhere on sites first-aid posts, rooms for mother and child were equipped. The CEC provided conditions for voting of citizens with disabilities. Special attention was paid to the voters of older generation.

The Mission notes with satisfaction the high activity of young people on the day of the vote. For the first time young citizens who took part in the voting were given souvenirs.

The participation of observers from party, public and media observers is widely noted.

Blocking of internet sites and social networks was not mentioned. The process of preparing and holding elections was widely noted by the media.
At the polling stations, the voting was held calmly, in compliance with the established order and in the presence of local, public and international observers, representatives of the media.

No complaints or comments were received by the Mission on the day of the vote.

However, the Mission noted isolated instances of technical irregularities that were not widespread and could not have had an impact on the election results.

13. Conclusion

The Mission notes that the early presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan met the requirements of the electoral legislation of the Republic Of Kazakhstan and the country's international obligations.

The Mission noted no violations of the norms of national legislation calling into question the legitimacy of early elections.

The Mission recognizes the early presidential elections as transparent, reliable and democratic.

The Mission notes that the early presidential elections were an important step towards further development of democratic processes in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Mission congratulates the people of Kazakhstan on the election of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, wishes him success in the implementation of the course to strengthen the independence, sovereignty and socio-economic development of the country, new achievements and prosperity.

The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization expresses its deep appreciation to the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as other organizations and institutions for their full cooperation and assistance during its work.

 

Vladimir Norov
Head of the Observer Mission
Shanghai Cooperation Organization
10 June 2019, Nur Sultan