[JURIST] Kazakhstan has fallen short on its pledges to reform election laws before it takes over as chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website], Europe's main security and human rights body, in 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [text, PDF] released Monday. The report focused on two fundamental areas of ensuring an open and free system of elections – the rights to freedom of expression and assembly and the failure of Kazakhstan to live up to its promises of reform in those areas. The report quoted the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) [official website] as saying that the elections "did not meet a number of OSCE commitments, in particular with regard to elements of the legal framework and to the vote count and tabulation" and "interrupted an ongoing dialogue on election legislation." The report added that proposed electoral law changes sent to parliament earlier this month fail to address the fundamental problems such as term limits for the President, his unchecked powers to dissolve parliament, his ability to appoint a third of the members of the upper chamber and choose the chair and two members of the seven-member Central Election Commission.
Some of the criticism of Kazakhstan's electoral practices has stemmed from the December 2005 election in which President Nursultan Nazarbaev [official website; BBC profile], in office since 1991, was re-elected with 91 percent of the vote. International observers raised concerns of fraud [JURIST report] after that poll, which opposition parties unsuccessfully challenged [JURIST report] afterwards. In August 2007 parliamentary elections the ruling party, Nur Otan [party website, in Russian], won 88 percent of the vote. Kazakhstan has never had elections considered fair and free by Western monitors.