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Kazakh president dissolves Parliament, triggering first elections since democratic reforms

On 19 March, Kazakhstan will hold its first parliamentary election since President Kassym Jomart Tokayev announced constitutional changes aimed at improving the democratic process. This will be the first opportunity to observe how measures designed to encourage a multiparty system with a stronger Parliament in practice, writes Nick Powell, Political Editor.

A third visit to the polls in Kazakhstan will be made on 19 March. This is less than a year ago. In June, there was a referendum, in which voters supported the reforms of President Tokayev. Then, in November, there was an early presidential vote, which delivered what will be the last term in office. The presidential vote was originally not due until 2024. However, the parliamentary elections were scheduled for 2025.

The constitutional changes move Kazakhstan from a super-presidential system to a parliamentary-presidential one, with the members of the Mazhilis, or lower house of parliament gaining a more powerful role. Another reform is to make it easier to register a party by reducing the membership requirement from 22,000 to 5,000.

As a result, several new political parties registered. They also have a lower threshold of entry to the Mazhilis of 5% instead 7%. On the ballot paper, voters will have an option to vote ‘against’. 70% of Mazhilis will come from party lists. The remaining 30% will represent individual constituencies. It promises to be more inclusive, with quotas set up for young people, women, and those with special disabilities.

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President Tokayev thanked members for their hard work after dissolving the Mazhilis. They had been notified last September that elections would be held in the first half this year. He noted that candidates and parties had never had so much time to prepare for an election campaign during the years of independence.

He said that Kazakhstan is in a new era. “The country is in a dynamic, comprehensive process of renewal. These elections will be the symbol of social changes and will provide a strong impetus for further modernisation of the political system,” he said. “There aren’t many countries in the world that can carry out such massive transformations.”

After events of Tragic January a year earlier, the reform program was expedited. At first peaceful protests against fuel price increases were met with violence and murders. These killings were apparently perpetrated by groups seeking to profit from the situation. At least 238 people were killed.


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In the aftermath of the election, President Tokayev distanced from Nursultan Nazaarbaev, his predecessor who was no longer considered an ‘Elbasy’, or leader of the country. The results of the election will be a key indicator of Kazakhstan’s political advancement.

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