Parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan: new parties, open debates
- Written by Zainidin Kurmanov
ASTANA — The process of political modernization is going on in Kazakhstan.
Following the nationwide referendum that approved constitutional amendments and the presidential elections, Kazakhstanis will now elect a new Mazhilis (the lower house of Parliament).
The vote, scheduled for 19 March 2023, will take place according to new rules: 69 deputies will be elected from political parties and 29 in single-mandate election constituencies. That means that independent candidates have a chance to be elected, for the first time for almost 20 years.
All deputies of maslikhats (councils) in districts and regional cities will be elected in single-mandate constituencies.
It is expected that new faces and ideas will enter the Mazhilis after the new vote. Independent candidates include many public figures and activists that are newcomers in Kazakh politics, such as noted journalist Aset Matayev, businessman Mukhtar Taizhan, actor Tungyshbai Zhamankulov, and football player David Loria.
Over the past several years the political system of Kazakhstan has undergone big changes, the main of which being the weakening of the presidential vertical of power. From now on, the president is elected for a single seven-year term with no right for reelection, and is no longer head of the ruling party, Amanat. Akims (heads of local state administrations) will also be elected.
More than a year has passed since the tragic events of January 2022, and over the past 14 months the Kazakh society has seen big changes: the building of a new, just Kazakhstan has begun, the law on the Elbasy (leader of the nation) has been cancelled, the new Senate (the upper house of Parliament) has been elected. But the upcoming elections of the Mazhilis are of particular interest, as it is the final step to the formation of a new, balanced political system with a pluralism of opinions, open debates, and a fair competition.
Political analysts and experts believe that this system will increase competition, give opposition forces a chance to enter Parliament, protect the interests of voters at the national and regional levels, and give an additional impetus to the development of Kazakhstan’s civil society. As a result of political liberalization, parliamentary seats are being contested by new political parties — the green party Baitaq and young entrepreneurs and popular bloggers from Respublica, as well as strong independent candidates from among the civil society and media community.
The election campaign has shown that for the first time since Kazakhstan’s independence, citizens and the candidates themselves have got the access to the whole range of political technologies: open debates, discussions at all platforms, free political campaigning. As a result, on March 19 Kazakhstanis will elect a real multiparty legislative body.
The renewal of the entire political elite through elections will lay the foundation of a new political practice for Kazakhstan — regular legitimate transfer of power. And the new model of election of the Mazhilis and local councils will allow fully protecting and representing the interests of citizens both at national and local levels.
This article was originally published by the AKIpress News Agency