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Old regime with new “mandate”: mid-term parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan

Mid-term parliamentary elections took place in Kazakhstan on Mar 20. Six of seven registered political parties took part in them. The turnout was 77%. After the elections, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that it was an open competitive vote, attended by observers and journalists from 60 countries.

The social and economic crisis in Kazakhstan and the need for political and economic reforms were the key reasons why the Kazakh authorities decided to organize mid-term parliamentary elections. They said they needed “a new mandate of trust.”

The newly elected parliament will consist of three parties. According to Chairman of the Central Election Commission Kuandyk Turgankulov, the winner is Nur Otan. That pro-government force has polled as many as 82.15% of the votes. Ak Zhol and Communist People’s Party have polled 7.18% and 7.14%, respectively. The other parties, Auyl, Nationwide Social-Democratic Party and Birlik, have failed to enter the parliament as they have polled just 2%, 1.17% and 0.29%, of the votes, respectively.

“The new parliament does not differ much from the previous one. All of the forces are pro-government. So, nothing has changed. Even though the president’s plan to create a parliamentary-presidential regime is quite intriguing,” says expert Dosym Satpayev.

After the vote, President Nazarbayev told journalists that the country’s political system needs change. “In Kazakhstan, we have so far had a presidential regime. Now we are considering distributing power among the president, the parliament and the government. Democracy is not the beginning of the road for us, it is the end of the road. Reforms and new laws help us moving forward. We shouldn’t be hustled here as we are Asia: we have different relations, different religion, different mentality. So, all states should learn to respect each other’s traditions, history and culture,” Nazarbayev said.

Some experts believe that Nazarbayev is preparing for handing over his power. He is old, so, sooner or later, he will have to do it. According to Andrei Kazantsev, Director of the Analytical Center of the Institute for International Studies, the successor is not known. “Most experts believe that Nazarbayev will prefer distributing power between the president, the parliament and the government. Some people say that in future Kazakhstan may become a parliamentary republic, where the cabinet will be elected by the parliamentary majority and where the prime minister will be the key actor,” Kazantsev said.

The key figures, according to him, will be Dariga Nazarbayeva (the president’s daughter), Timur Kulibayev (the president’s son-in-law), Karim Masimov (the prime minister) and Nural Nigmatulin (the head of the presidential administration) - the people who enjoy huge influence in Kazakhstan.

Analysts say that the status of Dariga Nazarbayeva may soon change as she demonstrated high competence in whatever field acted. Presently she is deputy prime minister for social issues. Many experts expect her to be offered the office of the parliamentary speaker, especially as she has significant experience in the parliament.

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