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Kazakhstan Parliamentary Election Cement President Tokayev’s Leadership

Frankfurt, Brussels (20/3 – 57.14) 

Kazakhstan held snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, March 19. The elections further strengthen President Kassyim-Jomart Tokayev’s leadership and power since he assumed a new term of presidency late last year. 

The elections come as part of Tokayev’s ambitious plan to modernize Kazakhstan and turn it into a “model nation” for Central Asia called New Kazakhstan. The snap polls are the first step in his five-year program, which includes constitutional reforms, economic development, and social reforms. 

Polling stations opened at 8am local time on Sunday morning with over 10 million eligible voters casting their ballots for 77 members of parliament – 19 from each of the four major political parties. 

The elections are seen as an important step forward for Kazakhstan’s democracy as it seeks to modernize its economy and become a leader among Central Asian countries. The results of this election will shape the future development path that “New Kazakhstan” takes under President Tokayev’s leadership during his five-year term in office.

The election results show that President Tokayev has a strong mandate to pursue his reform agenda, including proposed changes to the constitution that would increase presidential powers and reduce those held by Parliament. He also plans to introduce legislation on human rights protection and anti-corruption measures as well as economic initiatives such as tax cuts for businesses and individuals. 

Kazakhstan is seen as one of the most stable countries in Central Asia region thanks largely due its vast oil reserves , but much work remains to be done if it wants to become a model nation . It will be interesting see what new policies President Tokayev can implement in order bring about real change while retaining stability .

Exit polls Sunday from Kazakhstan’s early parliamentary and local council elections showed that six of the seven political parties running for office crossed the threshold needed to be admitted to the lower house of the legislature. Voter turnout stood at 54.2%, the Central Election Commission said. This is the lowest turnout for parliamentary elections in the nation’s history since independence. Within 10 days, Central Election Commission will declare the election’s final results.

According to a survey conducted by the Eurasian Integration Institute covering 30,000 voters at 200 polling stations, including 124 in cities and 76 in villages, the ruling Amanat Party ranked first with 53.46% of the vote, enough to retain a comfortable majority. The Auyl People’s Democratic Party came in second with 10.52%, and the Respublika Party, which participated for the first time in the elections, came in third with 8.9%. The Aq Jol Democratic Party received 7.87%, the People’s Party of Kazakhstan 6.25%, the National Social Democratic Party 5.31% and the Baytaq Party 3.22%. Besides the Baytaq Party, the new green party that fell short of the 5% requirement to enter Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, the other six political parties achieved the necessary score to be admitted to the parliament.

A total of 281 candidates from seven party lists competed for 69 seats in the Mazhilis, in addition to hundreds of candidates in 29 single-mandate constituencies, mostly self-nominated. Meanwhile, 793 international observers from 41 foreign states and 12 international organizations monitored the election.

Irene Charalambides, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Co-ordinator and Leader of the short-term observers, said that her organization has noted some improvements, including related to election laws, but Kazakhstan would only achieve the stated political goal of democratic development if far reaching reforms continue. Overall, the accreditation of citizen and international observers was inclusive. although meaningful observation was not always ensured, due to restrictions during the counting and tabulation processes.

Tokayev, who cast his ballot in Astana early Sunday morning, said the vote would allow him to start implementing his plan to reform the Central Asian country and ensure a fairer distribution of its oil wealth. The complete political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s position in foreign policy. Both Tokayev and 82-year-old former president Nursultan Nazarbayev cast their vote on Sunday morning.

A stronger mandate will help Tokayev navigate through regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the damages on trade, investment and supply chains throughout the former Soviet Union. While Tokayev has reshuffled the government after he formally became president in 2019, the lower house of parliament, which was elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping power and led the ruling Nur Otan party, was not due for election until 2026. Therefore, Tokayev called for a snap election.

Despite receiving Moscow’s backing during the 2022 unrest, Tokayev has refused to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or recognize its annexation of some Ukraine’s territories. Under Tokayev’s administration, Astana is trying to maintain good relationships with all major players, including Moscow, its neighbour and major trading partner, as well as China, its neighbour to the East, and the West.