March 31, 2023

Extraordinary elections to the lower house of parliament (Mazhilis) and local representative bodies (maslikhats) will be held in Kazakhstan on Sunday, March 19, according to a mixed system. The Mazhilis will be formed by 70 percent on party lists, 30 percent of the seats will be determined by voting in single-mandate districts. The deputy corps of regional maslikhats will be created on the basis of the “50 to 50” principle, the composition of city and district representative bodies – exclusively on the basis of the majority system.

Elections in the post-Nazarbayev era

All seven officially registered political parties in the country. In addition to the centenarians of the Kazakh parliament – the parties “Amanat” (the former “Nur-Otan” of Nursultan Nazarbayev. – Red.), “Ak Zhol” and the People’s Party of Kazakhstan (PPK), which also dominated the maslikhats, during the campaign, the parties “Auyl” and OSDP, as well as the recently registered parties “Baytak” and “Respublika” were notably active during the campaign.

Election campaign in Almaty
Election campaign in AlmatyPhoto: Anatoly Weißkopf/DW

Amendments to the country’s legislation, made following the results of the constitutional referendum in June 2022, made it illegal for the executive branch to interfere in electoral processes and forbade the country’s president and akims (mayors and governors) from being members of political associations. The lack of support from government agencies during the campaign ended forced the parliamentary parties to really plunge into a competitive environment. This was also reflected in the street visual campaigning – billboards of competitors to the parties “Amanat”, “Ak Zhol” and the CPP were even more common. No special advantages were seen in individual parliamentary parties and in media publications. For this reason, experts do not exclude that the voting results may be largely unexpected.

What are the chances of the successor of “Nur Otan”

“Things will not be the same as before. The picture of voting on party lists is not clear. But, since the president and all executive power are now outside the parties, this circumstance means that Nur Otan’s successor, the Amanat party, will not receive its” guaranteed “70 percent of the votes,” Kazbek Beisebayev, a popular public figure in Kazakhstan, shared his point of view with DW. Moreover, he believes that the percentage of voters’ support received by the “Amanat” party is the main intrigue of the upcoming elections to the parliament and maslikhats next Sunday.

Election campaign in Almaty
Election campaign in AlmatyPhoto: Anatoly Weißkopf/DW

Political scientist Daniyar Ashimbaev, who has been observing the parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan since the early 1990s, predicts that the Amanat (Testament of the Ancestors) party, which until recently dominated the parliament, will be in the upcoming elections. Red.) will receive 45, maximum 60 percent of the votes. “Despite the demonstrative refusal of the state apparatus to support Amanat, I think that this party will be able to occupy half of the party space in the parliament. Still, Amanat” have experience in conducting election campaignsand all necessary resources. Therefore, this party will most likely win the elections on party lists and without the previous use of administrative resources,” Daniyar Ashimbaev noted in an interview with DW. under no circumstances should local executive bodies intervene in the process of counting votes.

Possible surprises

As for other political parties, Daniyar Ashimbaev does not rule out unexpected results for some of them. For example, a political scientist believes that another parliamentary party, Ak Zhol (Bright Path.) Red.) will almost certainly get deputy seats in parliament and maslikhats, taking the second or third place according to the results of voting on party lists along with the Auyl (Village) party. – Red.), which is partly supported by the protest electorate. Both parties, Ashimbaev noted, conducted a fairly active campaign. And the chances of the third parliamentary party of the Nazarbayev era – the NPC (the former “People’s Communist Party”. – Red.), in his opinion, can be assessed as “50 to 50”.

One of the polling stations in Almaty
One of the polling stations in Almaty Photo: Anatoly Weißkopf/DW

According to my observations, the “Narodniks”, according to my observations, were pushed aside from the conditional fourth place by the “Republic” party, created only last year by young top managers of large enterprises. It corrected its campaign along the way and managed to gain an electorate literally from scratch. to overcome the five percent barrier to enter parliament and get seats in maslikhats, while the NPC, largely due to the actions of its new leadership, found itself at risk,” Daniyar Ashimbaev said, adding that he considers the chances of the Green Party “Baitak” getting into parliament small and OSDP.

Meanwhile, according to a demoscope survey conducted by the Bureau of Express Monitoring of Public Opinion on March 4-10, over 60 percent of Kazakh citizens have not yet decided which party they will vote for on March 19. At the same time, a significant part of the interviewed Kazakhstanis believe that none of the political parties participating in the elections represent their interests. Based on conversations with those respondents who have already made their choice, demoscope compiled a preliminary rating of electoral preferences. It follows from it that the first place will be taken by “Amanat”, the second – by “Auyl”, the third – by the party “Respublika”, the fourth – by the OSDP, the fifth – by the NPC, the sixth – by the “green” party “Baytak”. The party “Ak Zhol” did not fall into the field of view of the demoscope.

Where the parties just got lost

Interestingly, both Daniyar Ashimbaev and Kazbek Beisebaev, in an interview with DW, noted a rather low possibility of representatives of registered political parties getting into parliament and maslikhats through elections in single-mandate constituencies. The favorites in them are most often popular journalists in the country, lawyers and leaders of opposition political associations.

Most of them turned out to be very active during the campaign and managed to attract more attention to themselves through debates organized by independent publications than political parties could. High competition, especially noticeable in Astana and Almaty, also played its role. For example, in the capital of Kazakhstan, 41 candidates will be listed in the ballot of single-mandate constituency No. 1 for elections to the Majilis. And in district No. 3 in Almaty there are 37 surnames.

See also:

Between Russia and China: the new role of Kazakhstan

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