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Presidential elections were held in Kazakhstan on 10 January 1999. Incumbent president Nursultan Nazarbayev won the election with over 80% of the vote, and was sworn into office on 20 January 1999.[1] Most observers viewed the election as blatantly unfair, further confirming that Nazarbayev was not interested in promoting a democratic system of government.[2][3][4][5] Voter turnout was reported to be 87.0%.[6]

1999 Kazakh presidential election

← 1991 10 January 1999 2005 →
  Nursultan Nazarbayev 1997.jpg Abdildin S. A..jpg
Nominee Nursultan Nazarbayev Serikbolsyn Abdildin
Party Independent Communist
Popular vote 5,846,817 857,386
Percentage 81.00 % 11.90 %

President before election

Nursultan Nazarbayev

Elected President

Nursultan Nazarbayev



Kazakhstan's second presidential election was originally scheduled to occur in 1996. However, after a 1995 referendum the date was then set to be in December 2000. Parliamentary action in the fall of 1998, however, ultimately resulted in the election occurring in early 1999.

On 7 October 1998, nineteen amendments to the constitution were passed by Parliament and signed into law by President Nazarbayev. One amendment to article 94 reads:

By consent of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan the present term of the powers of the President of the Republic may be reduced by resolution of the Parliament of the Republic, adopted at the joint session of its Chambers by the majority of votes of the total number of deputies of each Chamber. In such case the Majilis of the Parliament within one month shall order elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Article 94[7]

Acting under this new amendment, the following day Parliament asked Nazarbayev to shorten his current term in office. The president agreed, after which the Majilis set January 10, 1999 as the date for new elections.[8][9]

The main opposition candidate, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, was barred from running in the election, a move criticized by many observers.[2][10] A recently passed law prohibited anyone convicted of a crime from running in the election. Kazhegeldin had recently been convicted of participating in an unsanctioned election rally, thereby becoming ineligible to seek office.[4]


Candidate Party Votes %
Nursultan Nazarbayev Independent 5,846,817 81
Serikbolsyn Abdildin Communist Party of Kazakhstan 857,386 11.9
Gani Qasymov Independent 337,794 4.7
Engels Gabbasov Party of People's Unity of Kazakhstan 55,708 0.8
Against all 123,703 1.2
Invalid/blank votes 107,562
Total 7,328,970 100
Source: Nohlen et al.

For the first time in a Kazakh election, ballots included an option to vote against all candidates.[11] Nazarbayev's party, the Party of People's Unity of Kazakhstan, was reformed into the Otan Party two months after the election.[12]


Even before the election, groups such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) expressed concern about the short preparation and campaigning period. OSCE pressed the Kazakh government to postpone the election so that all candidates could have adequate time to campaign, but to no avail.[10][13] U.S. Vice President Al Gore called Nazarbayev in November 1998 to express concerns about the upcoming election.[5]

The lack of fair access to mass media also concerned many observers. According to OSCE, most major media outlets focused disproportionately on Nazarbayev.[14]

Serikbolsyn Abdilin, the runner-up in the election, claimed widespread voter fraud and a failure to properly count ballots.[15]

The U.S. Department of State commented that the undemocratic nature of the elections "cast a shadow on bilateral relations".[5]


  1. ^ Olcott, 117.
  2. ^ a b "Kazakhstan's Empty Election". The New York Times. November 9, 1998. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  3. ^ OSCE-ODIHR, 3, 19-21.
  4. ^ a b Olcott, 119.
  5. ^ a b c Smith, Christopher (March 16, 1999). "Kazakhstan's Presidential Election - Extension of Remarks by Rep. Christopher H. Smith". U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on July 19, 2007. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  6. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p424 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  7. ^ Constitution of Kazakhstan Archived 2008-02-08 at the Wayback Machine Legislation Online
  8. ^ "From "Democratization" To Snap Presidential Elections". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  9. ^ OSCE-ODIHR, 7.
  10. ^ a b "OSCE wants Kazakhstan election postponed". BBC. December 3, 1998. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
  11. ^ OSCE-ODIHR, 8.
  12. ^ Olcott, 93.
  13. ^ OSCE-ODIHR, 3.
  14. ^ OSCE-ODIHR, 12-14.
  15. ^ Defeated Communist Candidate to Protest Kazakhstan Election Outcome Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (January 13, 1999)