Nur Sultan – Kazakhstan has scheduled its next parliamentary elections for January 10, 2021. A decree signed on October 21 by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sets the date for the election of members to the lower house of the country’s parliament, known as the Majlis.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev confirmed that the elections for the Majilis (a lower house of the Kazakh Parliament) and the Maslikhats (local representative bodies) on Jan. 10, 2021, will be fair and transparent, meanwhile 11 million Kazakhs will participate in 66 polling stations in 51 countries.
For the first time in 16 years, parliamentary elections will be held under conditions that strictly meet the constitutional requirements – more than two months before the end of the term of the deputies of the current convocation.
Also and for the first time, new players are involved in the political process, who will bring unique contributions to the electoral process. The upcoming elections will demonstrate that Kazakh society is in a period of development and the election results will meet the demands and needs of Kazakh citizens.
The nomination process lasted through Nov. 10-30. The CEC registered five political parties and confirmed all party lists that complied with the requirements of the Kazakh constitution. There are a total of 312 candidates from five political parties, of which 113 are from the People’s Party of Kazakhstan, Nur Otan ruling party – 126, Auyl (Village) – 19, Ak Zhol (White Way) – 38, and Adal (Honest) – 16. The parties will appear on a ballot in this order based on a random draw.
The party lists included 90 women and 222 men. There are 19 people under the age of 29. The average age of the candidates came out at 46.7 years. The party lists also included 34 deputies of the Majilis (lower chamber of Parliament) of the sixth convocation.
The party lists also had representation from 12 ethnicities. The majority 79.8 percent are Kazakhs, 13.8 percent are Russians. There are also representatives of other ethnic identities such as Belarusians, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Germans, Poles, Tatars, and Chuvash.
According to last measurement, 54.8 percent of respondents expressed readiness to come to the parliamentary elections. This indicator is quiet expected due to the recent increased interest of the population in the presidential elections.
Higher political activity can be seen among middle and senior ages: over 61 years old – 61.2 per cent, 46-60 years old – 59.3 per cent, 30-45 years old – 56.6 per cent, 18-29 years old – 42.4 per cent. At the same time, among young people, respondents from urban areas (44 per cent) are more politically active than in rural areas (37.9 per cent).
According to CEC member Serik Sydykov, the resolution was necessary to ensure a “legal culture” or the uniform application of registration in elections with a growth in the numbers of observers. The CEC data showed a 1.5-fold increase in the activity of observers. There were approximately 30,000 observers in the 2015 elections and around 47,000 in the 2019 presidential elections in Kazakhstan.
According to Sydykov, the enforcers of this resolution are the territorial, precinct election commissions that will independently decide on its application in specific situations. Other participants present at the polling station on election day are the law enforcement officers of this resolution – both observers and proxies. Each of them can check the legality and validity of the actions and the final decisions of a precinct election commission before entering data into the register.
Kazakhstan, declaring its intention to become a progressive country, within the framework of the signed international declarations, will ensure the representation of women in power through state-enforced quotas.
Thus, Kazakhstan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In 2019, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended Kazakhstan to revise the Concept of Family and Gender Policy to establish a 50 percent quota for the representation of women in all spheres of life.
Women and youth constitute over half of the population of Kazakhstan. Thus, an increase in the representation of women and youth in politics will make it possible to increase the attention paid to solving problems important for these categories of the population.
Today, the share of women deputies of Parliament in Kazakhstan is 22 percent, and persons under the age of 29 are not represented in Parliament. Only 2.4 percent of young people and less than 20 percent of women are represented in Maslikhats, in some regions this figure is at the level of five-seven percent.
Overall, people are more concerned with issues of social nature including the protection of socially vulnerable groups, health of relatives and friends, issues of employment and earnings as well as provision of food and its prices. Parties articulating the demands of the population in their campaigns and election programs are more likely to receive support from the population in the elections.
According to our research, answering the question “If the elections were held next Sunday, which of the parties are you ready to vote for?” the overwhelming majority cast their votes for Nur Otan – 72.3 percent, Auyl – 3.3 percent, Aқ Zhol – 3.2 percent, People’s Party of Kazakhstan (NPK) – 2 percent, Nationwide Social Democratic Party (NSDP) – 1.6 percent, Adal – 1.4 percent. Since the research was conducted before the rebranding of the Birlik party and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (KNPK), the names that were relevant at the time of the survey were used in the questionnaire.
The upcoming Majilis elections in 2021 will have several key differences from previous election campaigns.
First. Changes in the electoral legislation are characterized by the introduction of the institution of parliamentary opposition. Now, one chairman and two secretaries of the standing committees of the Majilis will be elected among the deputies of the parliamentary opposition.
It is important that the parliamentary opposition be given the right to initiate parliamentary hearings at least once during a session, as well as to determine the agenda of the government at least twice during one session. At the same time, the leaders of the factions of the political parties are provided with a guaranteed right to speak for joint sessions of the chambers of parliament, plenary sessions of the Majilis, meetings of the standing committees, meetings of working groups, parliamentary hearings and other events.
Second. There are provisions in the Constitutional Law “On Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan” and the Law “On Political Parties,” which for the first time in the Kazakh parliamentary practice, introduced a 30 percent quota in party lists for women and youth. This provision will become an effective mechanism for involving women and youth in parliament and local representative bodies, which will contribute to their increased participation in the socio-political processes of the country.
Third. The upcoming elections to the maslikhats (local representative bodies) will be held for the first time on party lists. The proportional model is fully consistent with world democratic practice and will contribute to the strengthening of the political system, the development of democracy, and facilitating the activities of political parties.
Fourth. Although the population of Kazakhstan is characterized by significant political apathy, over the past year, there has been a trend towards politicization in society. Thus, the administration of Tokayev adopted a number of democratic reforms such as liberalization of legislation on rallies, the introduction of quotas for women and youth on electoral lists and lowering the threshold for the minimum number of members for party registration. The society expects further development of this process from the new Majilis as these reforms cannot be called perfect.
Fifth. The elections in Kazakhstan will be held against the backdrop of global political tension. The electoral process in Belarus, the United States, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia ended in massive protests and outbreaks of violence. The reason for all these cases was distrust of the official election results. The Kazakh authorities are interested in the peaceful transit of power; therefore, it is in their interests to demonstrate the highest level of transparency in the electoral process.