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By Irina Mednikova
ALMATY – The time to become a presidential candidate in Kazakhstan is running out.
The registration period that began February 5 ends March 2. Voters will go to the polls April 3, but no great surprises await them.
So far, 22 citizens expressed their intention to run, but only 11 took steps to become candidates. Of those 11, three were nominated by political parties, one by an NGO and the others nominated themselves. The candidates include one woman, Guldan Tokbayeva, 57.
But, as of March 1, the Central Election Commission (CEC) had registered only four candidates – incumbent and ruling Nur-Otan Party nominee Nursultan Nazarbayev, who collected 717,340 signatures (the CEC required only 91,000) supporting him. Others who gathered enough signatures were Zhymbyl Akhmetbekov (a Communist), Gani Kasymov (a senator) and Mels Elusizov (leader of the Tabigat environmental group).
In 2005, 18 citizens tried to run.
The Kazakh-language fluency test this year has derailed some candidates, including self-nominated Ualikhan Kaisarov, who sued the CEC after failing it. He passed the candidates' language test in 2005. The Supreme Court upheld the CEC's decision, citing spelling errors by Kaisarov.
The number of candidates this year is normal, CEC spokeswoman Aigerim Tazhiyeva told Central Asia Online. But she noted with regret that some, such as Zaure Masina, withdrew for various reasons, while others, like Kaisarov, who had disagreements with the CEC had to drop out. Some lacked the time to gather signatures or couldn't pay the candidate fee of KZT 800,000 (US $5,500), she said.
The government has allotted 4.706 billion KZT (US $31.8m) for the election, according to a February 26 CEC statement. It also will give each candidate 6.294m KZT (US $43,000) for campaign advertising.
Kazakhstan promises to run honest and open elections, Kazakhstani Parliament Speaker Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev told an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly committee in Vienna February 25.
To help, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) has opened an election observation mission for the April 3 Kazakhstani presidential election, according to a March 1 OSCE statement. It includes 15 Astana- and Almaty-based experts and 28 long-term observers. The ODIHR plans to request 400 short-term observers from OSCE participating states. The CIS plans to send another 400 observers.
Kazakhstani voters will have to show a passport or other form of identification in order to vote April 3, Justice Ministry Registration Department spokesman Said Askarov said.