Ashgabat, 1 Apr—The ruling party in Kazakhstan bagged 82% of votes in the recent parliamentary elections.
Nur Otan, the party affiliated with President Nazarbayev managed to do better than its performance during the previous elections when it got about 80% votes. The voter turnout was also better than the last time i.e. almost 78%.
Kazakhstan, one of the largest countries in the world by land area and by natural resources, has been facing difficult economic situation recently. The population is very concerned about the question: who will manage it in the coming years.
The high dependence of the economy on the raw material (the main export item of the country are oil and metals) led to a drop in the level of GDP. The reason – the decline in world prices for these commodities. Last year, the country saw almost 100-percent depreciation of the national currency. It has knocked out Kazakhstan from the list of middle-income countries, and significantly reduced the welfare of the citizens, especially in the background of the threat of rising unemployment due to the closure of many companies serving the mining industry.
Juxtaposed against these events the president of Kazakhstan announced the new reforms. They are designed, for the most part, for 5-7 years. And includes 5 basic directions. Including: departure from dependence on raw materials economy (innovation, industrialization) and the privatization of the economy. The Final, the fifth, the reform should be a gradual transition in the country from tight presidential form of government to expand the powers of the parliament and government.
According to plans, the first steps in this direction will be made as early as 2017.
Called “Plan of the Nation” the reforms (they were divided into so-called “100 steps”) have been widely supported by the population. Moreover, the authorities, despite the acute shortage of budget revenues, managed not only to maintain the level of social spending, but even increased payments to public sector workers. However, it corresponds to the counter-cyclical fiscal policy, the transition to which the authorities have carried out a few years ago: the growth of spending during the crisis, and the economy in the period of economic growth (a similar system operates in the US).
In addition, in the past few years, the authorities of Kazakhstan have significantly changed labor laws, expanding the powers of trade unions. And even went to the “conflict of interest” with the business, forcing the latter to pay a special “extra” pension tax to its employees (5% of the employee’s level of deductions). So in general, the president and his party’s policy in Kazakhstan enjoy very high popularity. In last year’s presidential election Nazarbayev has scored almost 98% of the vote.
The elections to the lower house of parliament (Mazhilis) went ahead. They were to be held this fall. However, parliament decided to dissolve itself. Moreover they asked the head of state, or “leader of the nation” as referred to Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, to dissolve the Majilis. A key reason – the same institutional reforms. According to deputies, to implement them should be part of a new, trusted citizens.
As it turned out, they all rely on the same parties.
In the past, the convening Parliament had a palette of only three parties: the ruling party “Nur Otan,” party representing the interests of business, “Ak Zhol” and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan. The last two took only 7 and 6 seats (all in the lower house of Kazakhstan’s parliament 107 deputies). There was hardly any competition for Nur Otan. The results in the currents elections follow nearly the same pattern.
Both the parties are referred to as pro-president opposition. And both support the president’s policies, disagreeing with him only in the details. So, the business party insists on the maximum simplification of the business operation in the country and reduction of taxes, the Communists – on the contrary, insists on the “pinching capitalists” and lobbying for the extension of social benefits.
Six parties participated in the elections. And only one of them is the radical opposition of the authorities – a popular, democratic party of Kazakhstan. However, it is activated only on the eve of any election. All the rest of the time neither she nor any of its members work with the population, and do not interact with the people. Two Parties “Aul” and “Birlik” – are relatively new, created last year by merging four previously dying peacefully parties. The first of the renovators is positioning itself as the representative of the interests of the rural population. The second – pressing on love of country.
But, as shown by the election campaign, none of the above parties except the “Nur Otan” could form a coherent strategy for its behavior in the next five years. Moreover, the pre-election platform does not differ much from each other: a little bit about the struggle with the crisis, and a lot about the post-crisis growth. Rather, they complement one another, but did not offer anything radically different from the competition: one fighting for the interests of business, while others – for the rights of workers, and others are promoting moral values and patriotic spirit, the fourth for ecology. The Social Democrats are the only exception. But they pressed on so radical political change that the Kazakhstani people simply did not understand them.
So before the election, many voters said that “the absence of a strategic vision for the future of the country does not allow competitors to Nur Otan any chance.
The observers, who monitored the elections, by the way, noted that a special campaign to work with the majority of parties was not noticed. All equal conditions were provided. The electorate actively generously shared the views of the social networks, and said they do not trust the Communists, because “they do not want to return to the totalitarian past.” A party “Ak Zhol”, because “the oligarchs rob the common people.”
In general, almost all the observer missions noted that the elections were held without any problems, open and democratic. An exception has traditionally proved to be the report of the OSCE /ODIHR, which believes that there was “vague relationship between the state and the party” in Kazakhstan. And expressed concern that “this year Kazakhstan celebrates 25 years of independence, but the country is still represented by one political party … Kazakhstan will benefit from unbiased political debate and thus be able to find more effective solutions to confront the challenges of the future”, – stated the head of the observer delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE Gere Jorgen Bekkevold. But, he said, “no elections are perfect.”
Even without looking at the final results endorsed by the election commission, tt is already clear that the parliament includes three parties: the ruling party of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, “Nur Otan,” the party representing the business – “Ak Zhol” and the Communist Party. The last two will be able to take in the lower house of parliament 6 and 7 seats respectively. The new composition of the Majilis will be formed no later than 5 April 2016.