Kazakhstan New Political Transformation – Early Parliamentary Elections and Its Geopolitical Impact
By Dr. Vakhtang Maisaia, Political Scientist, Professor of Caucasus International University (CIU)
The 19 March 2023 early parliamentary elections were held in the context of reforms introduced to bring Kazakhstan closer to holding elections in line with international standards and OSCE commitments, as legal amendments addressed several previous recommendations and provided increased choice for voters. However, limits on the exercise of fundamental freedoms remain, and some political groups continued to be prevented from participation as parties in elections. Further changes to the legal framework are needed to provide a sufficient basis for conducting democratic elections, the international observers said in a statement released on 20 March 2023. The elections determined that the country is seeking to achieve democratic transformation as the elections have indicated second serious political reform stage in promoting political stabilization and liberty orientation not only at national but also at regional level. By doing so, Kazakhstan has become indeed natural regional leader-nation in bringing up democratic values in aegis of the Central Asia. The elections marked on adaptation of the parliamentary type of political governance with balanced Presidential rulership system only with one term in 7 years period. The Parliamentary elections were hold on so-called “combined proportional and majoritarian” style with involvement 10 political parties and movements. Firstly, of the more than 400 candidates competing for the 29 seats reserved for single-mandate races, many were ruling party “Amanat” representatives. Firstly, of the more than 400 candidates competing for the 29 seats reserved for single-mandate races, many were “Amanat” representatives. Preliminary results show that fully 23 of those races were won by ruling party “Amanat” members, meaning the party is likely to have at least 60 of the 98 seats in the lower house. With none of the seven parties competing resembling any type of opposition to the system, it was the single-mandate races that added an element of the unknown to these elections. It is interesting to stress that the elections covers also local legislative council elections. With combination of federal and local parliamentary elections could be considering very interesting political novelty in the regional scope. Snap elections for the Kazakhstan lower house of the federal Parliament (Majilis) and local councils (maslikhats) will be held March 19, 2023. A total of 3,749 deputies of maslikhats will be elected—2,130 in regional councils and 617 in city councils.
The 2023 snap legislative elections will test President Toqaev’s structural and political reforms in the aftermath of last year’s referendum and presidential election and the extent to which they will facilitate the creation of a “New Kazakhstan” following the three-decade rule of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The parliamentary elections were the third stage for promoting the political reforms in the country. As considering the previous election results showed that the percentage threshold for entering the “Mazhlis” was too high and did not reflect the real situation in the party system of the country. In order to increase the representation of different actors in the legislature, in May 2021, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed amendments to the Constitutional Law “On Elections in Kazakhstan”, which provides for reducing the threshold for political parties in elections to the “Mazhlis” from 7 to 5%. Another significant step towards democratization was the decision to introduce the election of Akims of cities (city governors) of district significance, villages and rural districts. A total of 864 Akims were elected directly in 2021 (730 rural Akims were elected in the first direct elections on July 25, 2021, 134 were elected in the period of from August to December 2021). Currently due to the preliminary results, six political parties entered the lower house of the Parliament and ruling party “Amanat” wons the elections with 53% of the votes.
Nevertheless, the provisions that opposition parties could not create a common coalition to suppress the ruling party dominance would not affect the whole political landscape and further promote the political reforms ahead. As it is known in 2021 the President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared the 10 principles of the political reforms for improving the political system of the country and promote new political culture posture. The principles included the following ones:
- The President’s Power limitation
- Reformatting representative branch of government
- Improvement of electoral system
- Expanding opportunities for development of party system
- Modernization of electoral process
- Strengthening human rights institutions
- Increasing competitiveness of mass-media and strengthening the role of civil society institutions
- Improvement of administrative-territorial structure of the country
- Decentralization of local self-government
- Priority anti-crisis measures
These are basics of the political reform promotion in order to improve political governance and reaching out economic effective policy provisions. Therefore Kazakhstan is standing at the very critical stage and hiked up at the most level of reforms and now the ones could be transcended in rising its geopolitical status-quo at any levels. “New Kazakhstan” plan is on and will be developing in nearest future.