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Kazakh president pledges 'free, fair' upcoming vote
Updated: 2005-09-01 21:58

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Thursday pledged to ensure that the upcoming presidential vote in December will be democratic.

"As the country's incumbent president, I will create all the conditions to make the forthcoming presidential elections free, fair and transparent," Nazarbayev told the first session of parliament following the summer recess.

Nazarbayev, who has ruled the oil-rich ex-Soviet nation for 16 years, intends to run for a new seven-year term in December. The 65-year-old leader has been criticized for blocking democratic reforms and persecuting political opponents and free media.

International observers said last year's parliamentary elections were flawed. No opposition group is represented in the country's legislature.

Nazarbayev said Thursday that the results of the December elections "must not cause any doubt," either among Kazakh voters or the international community.

Kazakhstan's opposition groups have united in an alliance and said they would field a single candidate to challenge Nazarbayev.

Also Thursday, editors of four independent and opposition newspapers alleged authorities were stepping up pressure on them ahead of the elections.

The editors of the Epokha, Set.Kz, Zhuma Times and Apta.Kz said editions had been confiscated from distributors throughout the country in the past month.

Bakhytzhan Mukushev, editor of Epokha, said no explanations were given as to why newspapers were being confiscated by police or people in plainclothes who did not identify themselves.

Zhuma Times founder Ermurat Bapi said about 20 percent of copies printed in the past month were seized. "This is linked to the upcoming elections," Bapi said. "They don't want the word of the opposition to reach people."

Kazakhstan's broadcast media are almost entirely under government control, and print media are the opposition's main source of information dissemination.

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