Kazakhstan: Ruling party dominates single-mandate races
By one count, at least 23 out of 29 of the single-mandate district seats have been won by Amanat.
These were the elections that were supposed to inject a flavor of political diversity in Kazakhstan’s parliament.
It was not to be.
Until these polls, the 98 elected representatives in the Majilis, as the lower house of the legislature is known, typically won their seats by means of their position on a party list. This time, 29 of the seats were assigned to the winners of single-mandate districts.
The idea was that independent, self-nominated candidates would stand a chance to get into the Majilis. This would in turn make the chamber a livelier place that was more broadly representative of the public. In the 2021 elections, 84 seats were won by the ruling party: Nur Otan, which has now been renamed Amanat.
In the proportional representation component of the March 19 election, Amanat again dominated, albeit in less dramatic form that it has done in the past. With nearly 54 percent of the vote, it easily outmatched the runner-up, Auyl (Village), which early returns released by the Central Elections Commission showed on 10.9 percent. The Respublica party came in third by winning 8.6 percent of ballots cast.
But the indications are that a large chunk – at least 23 out of 29 by one count – of the single-mandate district seats have also been won by Amanat members.
In the capital, Astana, a former lawmaker Daulet Turlykhanov and a blogger Daulet Mukayev, both of whom belong to the ruling party, won their races. Mukayev garnered 30 percent of the vote, thereby defeating a TV executive-turned-government critic Arman Shorayev, who has said he believes he has been defrauded of his seat.
Also crying foul is long-time opposition activist Inga Imanbai, who has claimed, without yet providing specific evidence, that the authorities placed their thumb on the scales to ensure victory for her rival for an Almaty seat, Yermurat Bapi, a one-time opposition politician whom critics accuse of latterly having converted his loyalties to the government.
In another Almaty contest, Amanat member Bakytzhan Bazarbek won his race, prompting rival contender Mukhtar Taizhan, another familiar face on the opposition scene, to protest and threaten legal action. Bazarbek is a land lawyer best known for his campaign to return illegally appropriated land back to the state.
Dimash Alzhanov, a political analyst who has been active in opposition movements, wrote on his Facebook account that he believes the mixed-election system was intended to achieve this specific outcome. The authorities will retain effective control over the legislature despite having pledged to make it represent a more diverse spectrum of the population.
“These elections show that Akorda [presidential administration] … cannot offer society anything new. They are people without vision, life or an ability to change with the world,” Alzhanov wrote.
Not surprisingly, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has taken a different view.
Speaking at a public ceremony on March 21, he hailed the elections as a “serious step in advancing all our reforms."
“These elections have become a worthy continuation of large-scale changes. In other words, a new milestone in the country’s political development has begun,” he said.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.
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