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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Kazakhstan: legislative elections

Kazakhstan is holding snap legislative elections on Sunday that are expected to consolidate the power of the country’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and complete a reshuffle within the ruling elite.

Although Tokayev, 69, officially became president in 2019, he remained in the shadow of his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, until January 2022.

After the suppression of political unrest in the country, Tokayev came to the fore and removed a number of close associates of Nazarbayev from leading positions in the state. Some of them were later charged with corruption.

Elections to the lower house of parliament, elected under Nazarbayev, who led the ruling Nur Otan party, were due to take place in 2026, but Tokayev announced an early vote.

Renaming the ruling party “Amanat”, Tokayev decided not to become the leader of the party. Polls, however, show she is likely to retain her parliamentary majority and form the core of Tokayev’s parliamentary support.

However, for the first time in nearly two decades, several opposition figures are running as independents, which could see a number of government critics win seats in parliament.

However, in Almaty, where the opposition has the most support, voting was slow on Sunday morning amid a heavy police presence in the streets.

Tokayev, who voted early in Astana, said the vote would allow him to begin his plan to reform the country and ensure a fairer distribution of its oil wealth.

The completion of the political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s position in foreign policy. Recall that, despite the support given to him by Moscow during the 2022 unrest, he refused to support a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and to recognize the Russian annexation of certain Ukrainian territories.

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