March 4. 2024. 9:35

The Daily

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Ruling party sweeps Kazakh parliamentary election, exit polls show


Kazakhstan voted in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday (19 March) widely expected to cement President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s grip on power and complete a reshuffle of the ruling elite that began after he fully assumed leadership last year.

Exits polls showed the ruling Amanat party winning 53-54% of the vote, enough to retain a comfortable majority. Voter turnout stood at 54.1%, the Central Election Commission said.

Over 6.5 million Kazakh citizens out of more than 12 million eligible voters cast their ballots at 10,223 polling stations across Kazakhstan.

Turnouts vary across the country, with the rich Kyzylorda Region leading with 67.21%. The lowest turnout was recorded in the city of Almaty, with 25.82%, a trend that the city has shown in almost all previous elections.

Seven political parties competed in the election, including two new parties, Baytaq and Respublica, which were able to register before the election due to simplified party registration procedures.

281 candidates from seven party lists competed for 69 seats in the Mazhilis, in addition to hundreds of candidates in 29 single-mandate constituencies, mostly self-nominated.

The exit poll conducted by the Institute of Eurasian Integration shows the Amanat party receiving 53.46% of the vote, Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic Party – 10.52%, Respublica party – 8.9%, People’s Party of Kazakhstan – 6.25%, Aq Jol Democratic Party – 7.8%, National Social Democratic Party – 5.31% and Baytaq party – 3.22%.

Approximately 4.47% against all.

281 candidates from seven party lists competed for 69 seats in the Mazhilis, in addition to hundreds of candidates in 29 single-mandate constituencies, mostly self-nominated.

Voters in Almaty very engaged with this parliamentary election – most are very enthusiastic about having choices in the single-seat constituencies (while many are uninterested in the party list vote, many voted against all). So Tokayev’s reforms have engaged voters #Kazakhstan pic.twitter.com/KxMHathmbt

— Joanna Lillis (@joannalillis) March 19, 2023

In total, 793 international observers from 41 foreign states and 12 international organizations monitored the election.

A stronger mandate will help Tokayev navigate through regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent damage to trade, investment and supply chains throughout the former Soviet Union.

Although he formally became president in 2019, Tokayev, 69, had remained in the shadow of his predecessor and former patron Nursultan Nazarbayev until January 2022, when the two fell out amid an attempted coup and violent unrest.

Tokayev sidelined Nazarbayev, after suppressing political unrest in the oil-rich Central Asian country, and had a number of his associates removed from senior positions in the public sector, some of whom later faced corruption charges.

While Tokayev has reshuffled the government, the lower house of parliament – elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping powers and led the ruling Nur Otan party – was not due for election until 2026, and the president called a snap vote.

Ruling party

Unlike Nazarbayev, Tokayev has chosen not to lead the ruling party, rebranded Amanat, but it is certain to form the core of his support base in the legislature. Five other parties set to win seats also support Tokayev.

However, for the first time in almost two decades, several opposition figures were running as independents, a move which may allow some government critics to win a limited number of seats.

Still, in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city which usually shows most support for the opposition, voting appeared slow on Sunday amid a heavy police presence on the streets.

“We keep complaining that nothing changes in our country and we ourselves take no part in our country’s political life,” said Yevgeniya, a 36-year-old marketing executive who declined to give her last name or say for whom she voted. “Going out and voting is the least we can do to bring about change.”

Tokayev, who cast his ballot in Astana early in the morning without talking to the press, has said the vote would allow him to start implementing his plan to reform the country and ensure a fairer distribution of its oil wealth.

The completion of political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s hand in foreign policy. Despite receiving Moscow’s backing during the 2022 unrest, he has refused to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or recognise its annexation of some Ukrainian territories.

Astana is trying to maintain good relationships with all major players: Moscow, its neighbour and major trading partner, China, its neighbour to the East, and the West.