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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh President Gets His Landslide

ReutersNazarbayev attending a post-election celebration in Astana on Saturday.
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- President Nursultan Nazarbayev's party won all available seats in Kazakhstan's new parliament in an election that international observers said Sunday was flawed but that still showed the oil-rich country was making progress toward becoming a democracy.

The Nur Otan party received 88 percent of Saturday's vote, and no other party cleared the 7 percent barrier needed to win a seat in the legislature, according to preliminary results released Sunday by the Central Elections Commission.

The two largest opposition groups condemned the results, saying the figures had been manipulated.

Nazarbayev -- who has ruled the Central Asian country since 1989, when it was still a Soviet republic -- had pledged that the elections would be free and fair. He is pushing for Kazakhstan in 2009 to chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has delayed making a decision because of concerns about the country's commitment to democracy.

The OSCE, which had sent more than 400 election observers, said the vote count was assessed negatively in more than 40 percent of the polling stations visited, mainly due to procedural problems and lack of transparency.

"Notwithstanding the concerns contained in the report, I believe that these elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution toward a democratic country," Consiglio Di Nino, a Canadian senator who heads the OSCE observer mission, said in a statement.

Lubomir Kopaj, who heads the long-term election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, was more restrained in his assessment, saying Kazakhstan still needed to make many improvements to its election process.

"I have never seen a democratic country with one political party in the parliament," Kopaj said at a news conference.

The election had been expected to improve slightly the position of the opposition, which held only one seat in the last parliament. Instead, both of the largest opposition groups were shut out.

"We don't recognize the results of the election. They absolutely do not reflect the actual alignment of political forces and the social support they draw," said Burikhan Nurmukhamedov, a leader of the Ak Zhol party, Interfax reported.

The elections commission said Ak Zhol had received about 3.25 percent of the vote, but Nurmukhamedov said the party's own surveys indicated it won about 12 percent.

"We have definitely won those votes," he said, adding that the party was preparing reports on irregularities to present the elections commission and prosecutor general, Interfax reported.

"The elections have been utterly profaned," said Ualikhan Kaisarov of the All-National Social Democratic Party, which received 4.62 percent in the official tally.

The OSCE mission expressed concern about the high 7-percent threshold for representation in the parliament.

The same threshold has been introduced in Russia, where parliamentary elections are scheduled for December.

An observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States said the Kazakh elections were "free and transparent," CIS Secretary Vladimir Rushailo said, Itar-Tass reported.

The CIS observers consider the elections "a reflection of the stable social and economic development of Kazakhstan," said Rushailo, a former Russian interior minister.

Lyubov Sliska, first deputy speaker of the State Duma, said Sunday that that the results were an accurate reflection of Nur Otan's popularity.

"Behind that 88 percent, which demonstrates the support enjoyed by the party of power, is the real strength of the leadership of the country and the head of state most of all, in ensuring a normal life for its people," Sliska said, Interfax reported.

Nazarbayev has brought relative prosperity to the nation of 15 million, where economic growth has been in the double digits in recent years.

The election was to choose 98 members of the lower house of the parliament. Nine more seats will be filled by members of the Assembly of Peoples, a powerless body designed to give a voice to ethnic minorities.

Voter turnout was just under 65 percent nationwide, the elections commission said. In the 2004 parliamentary election it was 56.8 percent.