In many democratic systems, holding legislative elections amid spiraling inflation, a rapidly depreciating currency, sharp contractions in government expenditure and reports of job losses and delayed wages usually spells trouble for a governing party.
But not in Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party looks certain to secure another majority, as a barely visible parliamentary election campaign trudges past its halfway point. The election to select a fresh 107-member lower house of parliament — or Mazhilis — is set for March 20, almost a year earlier than required.
Pundits largely agree that the election, which was originally scheduled for January 2017, was brought forward in an attempt to limit the political risks for incumbent authorities, in case Kazakhstan’s economic crisis starts to bite even harder. “While the authorities have some degree of [public] confidence left, they have to preserve their legitimacy and get parties into parliament that will support the ruling powers,” Almaty-based analyst Tolganay Umbetaliyeva told EurasiaNet.org.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.