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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazarbayev Says Sweep 'No Tragedy'

ReutersNazarbayev casting his ballot in a symbolic vote for nine deputies Monday.
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- A new parliament consisting of solely the party headed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will be "no tragedy" for the oil-producing Central Asian state, the long-serving leader said Monday.

A weekend poll, which election observers said did not meet international standards and which the opposition described as a return to the Soviet past, handed Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party every available seat in the parliament after it won 88 percent of the vote.

"Unfortunately the other parties were not able to pass the 7 percent barrier [to win seats]," Nazarbayev said. "But we will not make a tragedy of this. The effectiveness of the parliament will not suffer, I am sure."

Nur Otan will fill 98 seats in the 107-seat parliament. Nazarbayev, in power since 1989, was speaking at a ceremony to appoint nine further members of the parliament who will represent Kazakhstan's ethnic groups.

A Nazarbayev-appointed body, the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, held a purely symbolic vote to choose the nine from a list that only included nine candidates.

The event was held in an opera house in the basement of a giant pyramid known as the Palace of Peace and Accord. A giant banner in the auditorium read: "We Kazakhs are strong in unity -- N. Nazarbayev."

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Sunday that the election had failed to meet international standards due to a lack of transparency during the vote count and the high threshold for entering the parliament.

They also identified, however, what they described as progress toward democracy because the vote was conducted in a calm atmosphere and candidates had been given more opportunities to convey their message to voters.

Nazarbayev called the poll two years early and there had been hopes that the opposition -- which previously held just one seat -- might be able to improve its parliamentary presence.

In their report, the OSCE observers said appointing some members of the parliament through the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan contravened a commitment by OSCE members states such as Kazakhstan to ensure that at least one house is fully elected.

Previous parliaments were fully elected. The Assembly of People of Kazakhstan formerly acted as a purely consultative body.

OSCE monitors recorded incidents of votes for other parties being counted for Nur Otan, a failure to let observers see ballot papers or move freely during the count and a failure to comply with correct counting procedures, they said.

But Nazarbayev brushed aside any criticism buried in the report Monday, saying the OSCE and other poll monitors had "overall" approved of the vote as the first free and fair election in Kazakhstan's history.

"This positive assessment, the first that our country has received, shows that Kazakhstan is moving in the right direction in its political reforms," Nazarbayev said.