Kazakhstan holds Mazhilis legislative elections today

Kazakhstani voters will head to the polls today to elect members of the Mazhilis, Kazakhstan’s lower house of its bicameral

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Photo: parlam.kz

Kazakhstani voters will head to the polls today to elect members of the Mazhilis, Kazakhstan’s lower house of its bicameral parliament.

The country’s nationalist authoritarian Nur Otan Party is widely expected to retain its dominant position in the Mazhilis, with loyalist opposition parties making nominal gains at best. Although anti-government activists mobilised considerable public support ahead of the country’s 2019 presidential elections, poor turnout at a December 16 anti-government rally and the exclusion of genuine opposition parties from running today all but assures that Nur Otan will stay in power.

Nevertheless, in the medium- to long-term, today’s elections could possibly lead to a weakening of Nur Otan’s over two-decade monopoly on Kazakh politics. Politics in Kazakhstan remain turbulent following the resignation of long-time dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev in March 2019—though Nazarbayev remains an influential player in other official capacities. Since the elections today could result in the appointment of a new government, an opportunity presents itself for Nazarbayev’s successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to break from his predecessor and implement reforms to liberalise the country’s economy and social institutions. However, do not expect Tokayev to embrace such an approach until the country at least recovers from the global COVID-19 economic downturn.

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