This article is part of our special report Kazakhstan elections.
The parliamentary elections held on Sunday (10 January) are seen as another step in the process of “controlled democratisation” of the former Soviet republic.
Last October Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree scheduling the parliamentary elections for the Majilis.
Majilis is the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament consisting of 107 deputies who are elected for a five-year term. The upper house is the Senate of Kazakhstan, with 47 members. Members of the Senate are elected on the basis of indirect suffrage by secret ballot, and half of the elected members are up for election every three years.
The previous elections for the Majilis were held in March 2016. Six political parties participated in the elections and three of them, Nur Otan (82.2%), Ak Zhol Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (7.18%), the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (7.14%), won the right to send their deputies to the chamber.
Currently, the Nur Otan party has a majority of 84 deputies in the Majilis, while the Ak Zhol and the Communist People’s party have 7 deputies each.
Nine deputies are elected from the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body under the president of Kazakhstan whose members are drawn from organisations representing major ethnic communities living in the country.
“All political parties had time to prepare for the upcoming election campaign, develop an election platform, and enhance party infrastructure. The Central Election Commission and the Prosecutor General’s Office will continuously monitor the legality, transparency, and fairness of elections,” Tokayev said in his address at the time when he signed the decree.
He emphasised the reforms he has undertaken since he stepped into the presidential office in June 2019, including the introduction of a parliamentary opposition institute.
Tokayev won the 9 June 2019 poll with 70% of the votes, in elections disputed by seven candidates – a novelty in terms of pluralism for the country.
“One chair and two secretaries of the Majilis standing committees will now be elected from the members of the parliamentary opposition. In addition, the parliamentary opposition will have the right to initiate parliamentary hearings at least once during one session and to set the agenda for the government hour at least twice during one session,” said the Kazakh president.
In 2019, Tokayev signed a decree that introduced a mandatory 30% quota for women and young people on party lists in an effort to increase their voice in the decision-making process.
The elections for maslikhats (representative local authority bodies) will for the first time be held based on party lists, which according to Tokayev will “enable parties to strengthen their position in the country’s political system.”
In August, seventeen Senate deputies from the nation’s 14 regions and cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent were elected to the Senate.
The renewed composition of the Kazakh parliament, noted Tokayev, will focus on “quality legislative support for social and economic reforms in the country.”
The president said that in the context of a global economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Kazakhstan has to take effective anti-crisis measures, ensuring sustainable economic development, and improving the well-being of the people.
He encouraged Kazakhs to participate in the elections. January is usually very cold in the Central Asian country, with temperatures in the capital Nur-Sultan often as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]