Kazakhstan's ruling party claimed victory Tuesday in parliamentary elections before complete results were announced, and the United States backed the conclusion of international observers that the voting failed to meet international standards.
The U.S. Embassy in Astana, the Kazakh capital, said it agreed with an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, that the vote fell short of international standards.
The embassy said in a statement that "the election process did not meet the international standards to which Kazakhstan has committed itself" and that Kazakh authorities failed to "effectively and fairly" apply positive changes in the new election law.
The OSCE cited a lack of transparency in the work of election authorities, official interference, pro-government media bias and irregularities during vote counting.
Petr Svoik, a senior official with the opposition Democratic Choice party, said it was one of the dirtiest elections in memory.
The elections were seen as a test of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's commitment to democracy. Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party boss, has been criticized in recent years for backtracking on reforms in this oil-rich Central Asian nation, which extends from the Caspian Sea to China and is the size of Western Europe. He had pledged that the elections would be "transparent, fair and democratic."
Election officials, announcing the results of electronic voting, which accounted for 18 percent of ballots cast, said the Otan Party, which is aligned with Nazarbayev, was leading with 42.7 percent while the Asar party, run by the president's daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, was second with 19.5 percent.