ALMATY Kazakhstan's parliamentary election failed to meet international standards because of a lack of transparency during the vote count and a high threshold for entering parliament, international observers said on Sunday.
But the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also said Saturday's vote, in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev's party won every available seat in parliament, was a step forward.
"Notwithstanding the concerns contained in the report, I believe that these elections continue to move Kazakhstan forward in its evolution towards a democratic country," Senator Consiglio Di Nino, co-ordinator of the OSCE monitors, said in a statement.
Kazakhstan, an oil producer ruled by Nazarbayev since 1989, has never held a vote judged free and fair.
The OSCE, a 56-member group that includes Russia and Western countries, has come under scrutiny from Moscow over its election monitoring in the former Soviet bloc, where Russia has accused it of being overly critical.
The monitors said they made negative assessments of the vote count in 40 percent of polling stations visited, "mainly due to procedural problems and a lack of transparency".
They noted that state media and authorities gave favorable treatment to Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party and that measures such as the 7 percent threshold to enter parliament stood in the way of developing a pluralistic political party system.
But the observers also said the vote was conducted in a calm atmosphere and candidates had been given more opportunities to convey their message to voters.
David Wilshire, a British member of parliament heading a delegation of parliamentarians from the Council of Europe, said Kazakhstan was making "real progress".
"I am not surprised that more needs to be done but saddened that the outstanding challenges include some fundamental matters," he said.