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Elections in Kazakhstan Yield Results as Predicted

EXPERT COMMENT

The Nur Otan ruling party swept the parliamentary elections, underscoring the continued hold on power of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The highly-controlled elections to Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament (Majlis) have produced a distribution of seats almost identical to the previous parliament, with ruling party Nur Otan — still under the chairmanship of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev — remaining firmly in charge.

The elections were the first since 80-year-old Nazarbayev yielded his position after nearly 30 years in power to his own hand-picked successor Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. The leadership’s need for control and wariness of electoral protests is unsurprising in light of the unusual spate of anti-government rallies that took place when Nazarbayev passed the presidential reins in 2019, and the recent post-election demonstrations in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Russia.

In addition, a fear that the share of the vote received by Nur Otan could dip below the standard 70-plus per cent, which would indicate a drop in the government’s approval ratings, also motivated the leadership to leave no stone unturned in its control of all aspects of the Majlis elections and the outcome.

Aside from holding the elections in freezing winter temperatures during a global pandemic, there were reports in the run-up of attempts to limit access to some popular social media websites, to increase governmental access to personal data of internet users, and to drastically tighten procedures for polls observation.

The chief instrument of control was the clear refusal by the authorities to allow a single genuine opposition party to contest the elections. Despite at least nine attempts since the 2016 parliamentary elections, no new parties have been registered, firmly shutting the opposition out of the political arena.

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Original article link: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/01/elections-kazakhstan-yield-results-predicted

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