How Kazakhstan Spent the Election Day

Sympathetic ink pens, merry-go-round voting, bulletin tricks and the numerous protests in Almaty and Nur-Sultan are the main attributes of Kazakhstan’s June 9 presidential elections that ended exactly as was predicted.

On June 10, 2019, the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan declared Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev the winner of the presidential elections: he collected 6 539 715 or 70,96% of the votes.

Amirzhan Kosanov, the nominee of the Ult Tagdyry National Patriotic Movement, with his 1 495 491 or 16,23% of the votes was the first runner-up and the Ak Zhol Party nominee Daniy Espayev, with 465 714 or 5,05% of the votes, was the second runner-up at the elections. The Communist Party nominee Zhambyl Akhmetbekov collected 167 649 or 1,82% of the votes, the Auyl Party nominee Toleutay Rakhimbekov collected 280 451 or 3.04% of the votes, the Trade Union Federation nominee Amangeldy Taspikhov collected 182 898 or 1.98% of the votes and the Uly Dara Kyrandary Civic Movement nominee Sadybek Tugel collected 84 582 or 0.92% of the votes.

Thanks to the observers and the social networks activists, we now have the numerous video-recordings of the violations committed at the ballot stations. We did not aim to document all of them (let the human rights defenders do their job), nonetheless, here are some of the links.

  • At one of the ballot stations, they discovered dozens if not hundreds of bulletins that were not given out to the voters. These bulletins were to be stuffed into the bulletin box, but the observers did not allow for that to happen. The name of Tokayev was marked on all of these bulletins. The video of Akmaral Madelkhanova.
  • Yet another video (from the page of Zhenibek Kozhyk) shows the bulletins being stuffed.  
  • These video demonstrate how teachers were given ten bulletins and instructed for whom to vote. 
  • And this video shows how they corrected the bulletins with the aid of the aforementioned sympathetic pens.

Here is a curious story told to us by an observer (we keep his name undisclosed on his request). It is about counting the votes at one of the Almaty ballot stations (quite a typical situation for these elections it seems).

“The most interesting thing was awaiting us during the vote-counting. So, at 8 p.m., the ballot stations were closed. First, they got rid of the unused ones, an untouched pack, 1000 bulletins according to the electoral commission. No one checked, they just took their word for it. The other pack which was half-used consisted of 761 bulletins. Thus, out of 2557 bulletins, 1761 were unused. Then they counted the bulletins brought from people’s homes – 18 items. No problems with those. Then they took out the content of the bulletin box and started counting the votes.

When the votes were counted, they started dividing the bulletins according to the names of the candidates. The chairperson of the electoral commission got noticeably agitated: one second, she would shout at her employees “I told you to stand in your assigned place!”, another second she would half-whisper in Kazakh: “Count silently! Do not say anything, I myself will come up to each of you and document everything”. During the counting, the members of the electoral commission crowded the table not letting the observers come closer, hiding the numbers on the calculator behind their backs and hands. The observers had to squirm and raise themselves on tiptoes in order to see something.

When the situation with the votes for each candidate more or less cleared up, we saw that the pile of the bulletins marking the name of the third candidate (Kosanov) and the pile of the bulletins marking the name of the fifth candidate (Tokayev) were almost identical in size. May be Tokayev’s pile was a little bigger. However, suddenly, they started to move the piles around the table, handing them over to each other, and the chairperson cried out that she was completely confused. Then she requested to divide the bulletins according to the name of the candidate and something strange happened: Tokayev’s pile grew dramatically in its size and now looked almost 2.5 times bigger.

A couple of times, the observers saw the bulletins marked in favor of Kosanov in Tokayev’s pile and had to make the electoral commission members take them out. But how in the world they managed to increase the size of the “most important” pile before the observers’ eyes is anybody’s guess. A sleight of hand and no fraud as they saw…”

For the sake of objectivity, we will remark that the representatives of the Central Electoral Commission did not register any violation related to the vote counting. “So far, not a single violation related to the vote counting has been reported to the Central and Regional Electoral Commission”, said they at the briefing in Nur Sultan.

As for the videos showing the bulletins being stuffed into the bulletin boxes:

- No, there were no incidents of this kind.
- What about the sympathetic ink?
- There was nothing like that, either.
- But then, where were all these videos recorded?
- You tell me where do they shoot fake news? They can produce entire performances.

As they say, no comment.

Generally speaking, the events of that day left a sulky impression on the election participants and the experts. Here are some quotes from Facebook.

Margulan Seysembay, entrepreneur and civil activist:

Because I was in the very midst of the electoral process, I personally understood everything about the way it works and made up my mind. The country needs the profound political reforms and I will do my best to make them happen. We have now been left with only one alternative: to conduct the political reforms or to take to the streets.

Having said that, we have not more than 3-5 months to conduct these reforms. If the authorities do not launch the reform program within the said timeframe, they will no longer manage to hold the people down, and taking to the streets will become the only remaining option. So, the autumn promises to be hot.

Dosym Satpayev, political expert:

Everything happened in the way I predicted on April 9 in one of my posts devoted to the future imitation of the elections: “Announcing the elections and giving the people an opportunity to actually make a choice are two different things in Kazakhstan. The script has already been written, the actors, the extras and the leading man have been cast. The opposition field has been scrubbed clean. The governors are waiting for the orders. The future chairpersons of the electoral commissions are receiving the directives. The pro-governmental players are expecting a selection of the usual propaganda stuff. We have already seen all this before. Old habits die hard. The entire state apparatus has never conducted elections differently. It doesn’t know how”. But even despite the fact that this battle has been lost, all the events that happened after March 19 have changed the conscience of many people in a profound way, increased their political activism and gave birth to the desire to make changes. As for those who, by the call of their hearts, attended the elections as observers, these people have made their political combat debut. The country will never be the same no matter how hard the authorities try, and the legacy of the political habits is not going to exist forever. The transition of the public conscience has already begun”.

Political expert Dastan Kadyrzhanov lists nine positive lessons learned from the elections.

  1. If you feel that the national ideals have been betrayed, this means that these ideals have ripened. And they are embraced not by individual people but by the entire nation. They are everyone’s and your own. Which means that the nation is now able to stand united. Which means that these ideals are not simply emptions, they are political beliefs.
  2. One must not rely upon those with no Heart. One must not listen to those with no brain.
  3. Most subjects have already grown into citizens. And they are capable of a lot if not everything. The monitoring of the elections and many other things have demonstrated the inevitable – we are awakening. The wheels have been set in motion, there is no turning back. The new generation has arrived. At last. Шалдар бәрі кете берсін. Glory to the rising generation! This is your time! The future is yours! And, to be honest, for the first time, I am not scared for the future of the nation.
  4. For the first time in many years of my participating in the elections, I feel that the people are starting to perform the main part in political events. This part has not been there for a long time. Now it is there. So, hurray, comrades.
  5. It is better to eventually learn the truth no matter how bitter it is. Only the truth makes a nation stronger. Only the truth makes tyrants weaker.
  6. A true people’s leader will now find it difficult to gain the trust of the fellow citizens. And this is how it should be. One must be worthy of the trust of the people. No one will any longer be allowed to take advantage of the true patriotic spirit. The people’s test will be much harder than the national language exam.
  7. If the people trust you, they can give you everything, free of charge. As a father and a mother can. And if you are able to carry this “everything” – move forward, to the victory! If not… Remember Kossanov.
  8. The circle of those who are seemingly “pro” contains many who are really “anti”. And this is the most important thing of all. But this lessen is yet to be digested because this hadn’t been done during this campaign and they wouldn’t have the time to do so. Nonetheless, it became clear to everyone who the anti-people scumbags were. So, one should not think that everyone wants to be among them voluntarily. Let me underscore once again, this is the most important thing.
  9. The authorities do not tolerate halftones. They are incapable of negotiating because, in the end, they will demand the total moral self-destruction (the way it was done with Kosanov). And this lesson is for you, Kasym-Zhomart Kemelevich. You want to play some chess game, walk along the edge? Unfortunately, you cant. Remember Kossanov!

As for the international observers, here is their assessment of the elections.

In conclusion, let us tell you what was happening OUTSIDE of the ballot stations.

KAZTag informs that, during the protest held on Staraya Square in Almaty, the police arrested dozens of people. (According to human rights activist Sergey Duvanov, about 300 people participated in the protest meeting).

They were arresting everyone including senior citizens and women. Several people said they were simply passing by on their way to the ballot stations which, however, did not stop the police. A part of the people arrested put up a fight. The mobile communication was functioning poorly, the mobile internet was absent. The Staraya Square district was cordoned by the police, the SWAT and people camouflaged with masks, armed with bludgeons and shields.

In Nur-Sultan, the armed siloviki cordoned the district around the Zhastar Palace of Young Generation. A part of the policemen was wearing bulletproof vests and protective masks, equipped with shields, armed with automatic weapons and bludgeons. There were about 700 (may be 1000) people protesting near the Palace of the Republic. The siloviki outnumbered them substantially. The protesters were arrested en masse and taken away in busses. There have been reports of physical violence on the part of the police. The siloviki, however, deny the facts of violence despite the existing video-records.

Below is a video-record of arrests in Almaty (Base channel video).




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