It seems that the Republic of Kazakhstan has now achieved the real goal of “Fair and Just Kazakhstan’ after the successful holding of snap parliamentary and local elections which were held on March 19, 2023. Ironically, even OSEC has highly appreciated overall arrangement of these elections in Kazakhstan which is commendable.
Political stakes in Kazakhstan elections:
Definitely, political stakes were high for the incumbent government but still there was no incident of pre & post political/electoral rigging in the country which is highly appreciable. It vividly reflected its firm belief in true democracy where people have free will and ballots were preferred over bullets.
There was not a single incident of any administrative preferential treatment towards any particular political party or candidate. All contesting political parties had equal access to media and Instagram was the most favorite social media link during these elections.
Moreover, all political parties were equally treated in print and electronic media coverage which disseminated true color of Kazakhstan’s liberal democracy which is indeed a good omen for its future political maturity, stability and sustainability. Hopefully, the ruling party Amanat will secure majority in these elections.
Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan:
The Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan and its regional offices did a remarkable job for holding a fair, free, transparent and internationally recognized elections in the country which has now further enhanced its massive drive of political diversity, existence of opposition parties, liberal democracy, listening state, impartiality of the governmental administration and last but not least, checks & balances, separation of power and people’s centric governance in the country.
International Election observers:
The majority of the international election observers and media also termed these elections unique, interactive, positive, productive, participatory and progressive leading the country towards greater social harmony, political stability, economic sustainability and constitutional consensus in the days to come.
According to its CEC more than 12 million people were eligible to vote in these elections. 10,233 polling stations were operating in 17 regions and three cities of national significance i.e. Astana, Almaty, and Shymkent. Polling stations in Kazakhstan and abroad were opened at 7 a.m. and were close at 8 p.m. local time. Kazakh citizens abroad cast their votes in 77 polling stations in 62 countries around the globe. In Pakistan Kazakhstan’s embassy also held polling station in Islamabad.
Interestingly, seven political parties i.e. Amanat, Aq Jol Democratic Party, Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic Party, Baytaq, National Social Democratic Party, People’s Party of Kazakhstan, and Respublica. Baytaq and Respublica rigorously participated in the democratically held elections. Moreover, two new parties were able to participate due to simplified party registration rules.
There were 281 candidates from party lists and hundreds of candidates in single mandate constituencies, a novelty in this election and a sign of unprecedented political activity among citizens. In addition to 435 candidates in single-mandate constituencies, including 359 self-nominated candidates.
The average age of the candidates was approximately 49 years. Women comprise 19.54 percent (85 candidates) of the registered candidates.
The CEC accredited 793 observers from 41 foreign countries including Pakistan and 12 international organizations. There were more than 230 foreign journalists accredited to cover the election.
Critical analysis of the recently elections revealed that snap elections for the Kazakhstan lower house of the federal Parliament (Majilis) and local councils (maslikhats) were held March 19, 2023 in which a total of 3,749 deputies of maslikhats have been elected, 130 in regional councils and 617 in city councils.
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Interestingly, Kazakhstan’s elections were unique in many ways, including the participation of two new political parties (the Green Party and the Respublika Party).
Two new political parties participated in the elections, which determined the members of the lower house of parliament (Mazhilis) and regional representative bodies (Maslikhats).
In this regard, significant changes have been introduced in the electoral system in comparison to previous elections following constitutional amendments last year.
A proportional-majoritarian model a new electoral value addition was used for the first time since 2004, where 30 per cent of Mazhilis members were elected in single-member districts.
The threshold for political parties to gain seats in parliament has been further lowered from seven to five per cent.
Furthermore, a 30 per cent quota for women, youth, and persons with special needs in party lists, both prior to the election and in the distribution of mandates have become iconic electoral achievements in Kazakhstan.
It seems that most recently elections are the most competitive legislative election in Kazakhstan’s modern history and it is a giant step in building a Just and Fair Kazakhstan. It vividly reflects Kazakhstan’s political wisdom and journey towards greater participatory democracy.
Undoubtedly, the mixed majority-proportional model has ensured that the entire spectrum of views and opinions of voters has been covered and included in the massive politicization and democratization at the gross root levels.
Hopefully, it finalizes its political and constitutional transition from a super-presidential system towards the normative presidential system under a unique model which is politically innovative, interactive, integrated, coordinated and people’s centric. It will further strengthen new political structure i.e. a strong President, an influential parliament, and an accountable government in the country.
To ensure full transparency and fairness, the election was monitored by the Central Election Commission (CEC), and 793 observers from 12 international organizations and 61 countries, including the mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Procedure of voting:
The CEC took all measures to conduct the election in strict compliance with the current legislation, and ensure openness, transparency, and democratic procedures of voting.
President Tokayev first proposed holding elections to the Mazhilis and maslikhats in his Address to the Nation on September 1, 2022. He dissolved the parliament chamber and terminated the powers of the maslikhats on January 19, 2023 when he announced the date of the vote.
This legislative election constitutes the final stage in the political renewal cycle initiated by President Tokayev in March 2022. A constitutional referendum was held on June 5, 2022, continued with the presidential election on November 20 last year and a Senate election on January 14 this year.
The previous legislative election in Kazakhstan took place in January 2021. Five parties participated in that election, with three parties gaining seats in the Mazhilis the ruling Amanat party (previously Nur Otan), Aq Jol, and the People’s Party.
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Hopefully, the rigorous participation of seven political parties in competitive elections will further contribute to strengthening the multi-party system by increasing the plurality and influence of opposition politics, an objective that the country has been working toward for the past several years.
In addition, an “against all” option was specifically included on the ballots, which gave the electorate the opportunity to express their disapproval of all candidates should they wish to do so.
It is good omen that according to exit polls Sunday from Kazakhstan’s early parliamentary and local council elections showed that six of the seven political parties competing for elections surpassed the threshold needed to be admitted to the lower house of the legislature.
Hopefully, within 10 days, Kazakhstan’s Central Election Commission will declare the election’s final results. The turnout was 54.19 percent.
To conclude, it seems that successful holding of these elections would further strengthen Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s massive structural reforms journey allowing him to start implementing his plan to reform the country and ensuring a fairer distribution of national resources.
Most recently, parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan marked the last step for the country’s complete reformation based on modernisation and democratization gradually but surely inching towards the new path promoted by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
It would beginning of new era in good governance, corporate restructuring, people’s friendly policies, pragmatic national and foreign policies and last but not least, political stability.
In March 2022, Kazakhstan president proposed numerous constitutional reforms aimed at changing the entire state model and form of government in the country by limiting the powers of the president, strengthening the role of Parliament, expanding the participation of citizens in political processes and further strengthening the protection of human rights.
In this connection, most recently held elections have further transformed its political system, administrative outlook and economic system.
It seems that Republic of Kazakhstan under the leadership of Tokayev has started a new journey of massive politicization and democratization in the country. It guarantees a qualitative life for all the citizens and communities alike.
It upholds true spirits of social justice and role of the law in which there will be no more scope and place for any kind of political elite, economic & corporate cronies, concentration of wealth and last but not least, exploitation of national resources by any elite alliance in the country.
The Republic of Kazakhstan has now a new democratic system which is meant for the people, by the people and of the people.
This Article is written by Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Executive Director: The Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad
Regional Expert: Kazakhstan & CIS