Kazakhstan. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s power party The Light of the Fatherland won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections in January. According to official data, the party received 81% of the vote. Two other parties joined Parliament, the Light Path and the Communist Party, which both really support the regime.
The election was the first under the rule of the authoritarian Nazarbayev when the opposition was allowed to nominate candidates. Thus, the one-party state was formally repealed, but according to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the election did not meet basic democratic requirements, and the vote counted cheating.
The real opposition ended up outside Parliament. Three opposition parties were not allowed to stand in the election, and the days before the election were banned, among other two leading social democratic politicians. The opposition held protest meetings after the election, demanding re-election and release by Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the disallowed party Alga !, and an editor. Both had been arrested before the election. The protests led to several opposition leaders being convicted of holding illegal meetings.
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In the oil town of Zhanaozen, emergency permits prevailed and the residents voted under strict security measures. Journalists did not have access to the city because of the unrest before New Year, when 16 people were killed when the riot police opened fire on protesting dismissed workers. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), people arrested after the unrest were subjected to torture, and the opposition said the city’s residents voted in an atmosphere of threat.
In March, a trial was launched against 37 people charged with the riots and violence in Zhanaozen. Some were accused of organizing riots, others of participating in the riots. HRW demanded that the trial be stopped because of accusations that torture was being used to gain recognition and objectionable testimony. The charges included abuse, water torture, threats of sexual abuse and threats to family members.
The Zhanao tragedy and its consequences meant a severe hardship for the regime’s attempt to portray Kazakhstan as a modern rule of law on the path to democracy. A report from HRW during the year described harassment, threats and imprisonment of union leaders and strikers. According to the report, the authorities’ harsh tactics had paved the way for the confrontation that followed. HRW described it as shocking that workers must endure mass dismissal (over 2,000) and be thrown in jail for participating in a peaceful strike.
Opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov was sentenced in October against his denial to seven and a half years in prison accused of coup attempts in connection with the strike and the riots in Zhanaozen. Kozlov was accused of stirring up the workers. The court also decided to seize Kozlov’s assets, including the party’s property registered in his name. In doing so, one of the few remaining opposition voices against Nazarbayev’s regime was silenced.
The US expressed criticism of the verdict and the US embassy added that the US values its strategic partnership with Kazakhstan and its commitment to greater openness and democracy.
In October, President Nazarbayev signed the new law that forced all religious communities to dissolve and re-register. This meant that a third of all religious organizations were banned. Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics, Jews and Buddhists are counted as traditional societies, while smaller groups previously subjected to persecution are now further affected. The law also prohibited prayer in government buildings, including government offices, educational institutions and military facilities. The OSCE has criticized the law as an unnecessary restriction on religious freedom.
According to countryaah, the population of Kazakhstan in 2012 was 17,571,905, ranking number 63 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.570% yearly, and the population density was 6.5089 people per km2.