The parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan will end the post-Nazarbayev transition period
Olzhas Auezov, Maria Gordeeva
ALMA-ATA, March 16 (Reuters) – Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan will create a lower house of parliament that will obey President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and complete the post-Nazarbayev transition. At the same time, analysts and political observers believe that some critics of the current government will still be able to win seats by helping the system let off steam.
The early elections are aimed at maintaining political stability in the face of global turmoil and after last year’s political unrest, the bloodiest in the country’s history.
“This is a fairly common practice of the presidents of the post-Soviet space, when they want to implement a new program, a new program of reforms … Regular elections have not been held in Kazakhstan for many years, we joke that these are ordinary early elections,” said the former candidate for MPs of the Mazhilis of the lower house Parliament Aida Alzhanova.
Tokayev came to power in 2019 after the abrupt resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had led the Central Asian nation for more than three decades.
Kazakhstan’s parliament was last elected in 2021, and a significant proportion of seats are now held by deputies from the pro-government Amanat party, formerly Nur-Otan, previously led by Nazarbayev.
There have been no real opposition parties in parliament for decades. Under Tokayev, party registration requirements were relaxed, but the parliament is likely to remain pro-government.
“Parliament will remain sufficiently steerable … the ability to lead the parliament for Tokayev will increase due to the fact that Amanat himself will be weakened,” said political scientist Rustam Burnashev.
In the upcoming elections, 30% of deputies will be elected from single-seat constituencies, while the remaining 70% will be nominated from party lists. Tokayev left Amanat last year and said he would not interfere in party politics.
“This is part of a very, very long link from last year, whose main task, as the president himself and his entourage say, is to complete a certain systemic transformation and start building a new Kazakhstan after the parliamentary elections,” said Dosym Satpayev.
“All this is done at the level of mainly ideological verbosity, because building a new Kazakhstan with old cadres … which are very actively present in both the government and the presidential administration and will most likely sit in parliament.”
According to Satpayev, Tokayev does not want to “turn out to be another Lukashenko, i.e. Berdymuhammedov Sr., Berdymuhammedov Jr., and he has to stage such performances somewhere, and that’s what we’re seeing – in a way, a performance with a wider cast of people – it looks more spectacular and more dynamic, but the end result is the same – that parliament be governed.
The opposition in Kazakhstan is actually divided, it is not represented by a single party, and opponents of the current government are running as self-proclaimed candidates.
“None of the active and registered parties represents the interests of the opposition electorate, poses harsh questions, does not criticize the government or the superior authority. Therefore, a significant part of society that is not satisfied with the current state of affairs and has serious grievances against the official authorities is not represented,” said sociologist Serik Beisembaev.
“All this diminishes the importance of this campaign, these elections, so we will not get the expected effect after the elections in the form of increased trust in the election institution and the entire political system.” (Maria Gordeeva)