*** CORRECTED DATELINE: OSCE human rights chief voices concern about
possible referendum on extension of Kazakh president’s term of office
WARSAW, 14 January 2011 – The director of the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez
Lenarcic, today expressed concern about reports indicating that
Kazakhstan’s parliament decided to open the way for holding a
referendum on the extension of the term of office of President
“The purpose of the planned referendum is inconsistent with
Kazakhstan’s international obligations and we hope the competent
authorities will take the appropriate steps to stop this initiative,”
“Referenda can be a way to involve citizens directly in the
decision-making on important issues. But a referendum can never be a
substitute for periodic elections. It does not offer a genuine choice
between political alternatives and would infringe on the opportunity
of citizens to hold their representatives accountable and to
effectively exercise their right to vote and be elected.”
He added that the will of the people in such matters can only
be determined by an electoral process that provides an equal
opportunity for all citizens to become candidates.
Lenarcic stressed that the envisioned extension of the
incumbent’s term of office would amount to abolishing elections for
Kazakhstan’s top government position for a considerable period of
time, in effect leaving the country without a presidential election
for a total of 15 years.
This would run counter to some of the most fundamental OSCE
commitments and other international standards.
As a participating State of the OSCE, Kazakhstan is obliged to
hold free elections at reasonable intervals and respect the right of
citizens to seek political or public office without discrimination.
Kazakhstan has also agreed that the basis of the authority and
legitimacy of all government is the will of the people, freely and
fairly expressed through periodic and genuine elections.
These commitments were just reaffirmed by the President of
Kazakhstan and the heads of state or government of the other OSCE
participating States at the OSCE’s Summit in Astana last month.
“It is particularly distressing that this referendum initiative
appeared only weeks after Kazakhstan as the then-chairmanship hosted
an OSCE Summit that in strong terms reaffirmed all OSCE commitments,
including those on democratic elections,” Lenarcic said.
The referendum would also be in violation of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the legally-binding
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and CIS
Convention on Standards of Democratic Elections.
In addition, the constitution states that international
treaties ratified by Kazakhstan have priority over national
For further information contact:
Public Affairs Unit
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Aleje Ujazdowskie 19
Office: +48 22 520 0640
Mobile: +48 603 683 122
Fax: +48 22 520 06 05