Voting begins in parliamentary and local elections, a key step in building a just Kazakhstan
Legislative elections are taking place today in Kazakhstan to elect members of the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament, and the maslikhats, local representative bodies.
Significant changes have been made to the electoral system in comparison to previous elections following constitutional amendments last year. A proportional-majoritarian model is being used for the first time since 2004, where 30 per cent of Mazhilis members are elected in single-member districts. The threshold for political parties to gain seats in parliament has been lowered from seven to five per cent. Other changes include an “against all” option on the ballots, and a 30 per cent quota for women, youth, and persons with special needs in party lists, both prior to the election and in the distribution of mandates.
Seven political parties are competing in the election, including two new parties that are able to participate due to simplified party registration rules. A total of 281 candidates from seven party lists are vying for seats in the Mazhilis, in addition to 435 candidates in single-mandate constituencies, including 359 self-nominated candidates.
Commenting on the election, Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, said: “This is the most competitive legislative election in Kazakhstan’s modern history and it is a key step in building a Just and Fair Kazakhstan. It is a demonstration of how far our country has come on its journey towards greater participatory democracy. The mixed majority-proportional model has ensured that the entire spectrum of views and opinions of voters has been covered.”
Noting the substantial political reforms that have been implemented in the country recently, Tileuberdi added: “Significant work has been done in Kazakhstan in recent years on comprehensive political modernization. This election finalizes the transition from a super-presidential system towards the normative presidential system under a model, put forward by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, of ‘a strong President, an influential parliament, and an accountable government.’”
10,223 polling stations both in the country and abroad, where 77 stations in 62 countries have been made available for Kazakhstan’s citizens abroad. More than 12 million people are eligible to vote.
To ensure full transparency and fairness, the election is being monitored by the Central Election Commission (CEC), and 793 observers from 12 international organizations and 41 countries, including the mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). CEC Chairman Nurlan Abdirov emphasized on March 15 that the CEC will take all measures to conduct the election in strict compliance with the current legislation, and ensure openness, transparency, and democratic procedures of voting.
Voting takes place from 07:00 to 20:00 local time. Preliminary results of the election are expected on March 20. Final results are to be tallied and announced by March 29.
President Tokayev first proposed holding elections to the Mazhilis and maslikhats in his Address to the Nation on September 1, 2022. He dissolved the parliament chamber and terminated the powers of the maslikhats on January 19, when he announced the date of the vote. This legislative election constitutes the final stage in the political renewal cycle initiated by President Tokayev in March 2022 following the tragic January events in 2022, which started with a constitutional referendum on June 5, 2022, continued with the presidential election on November 20 last year and a Senate election on January 14 this year.
The previous legislative election in Kazakhstan took place in January 2021. Five parties participated in that election, with three parties gaining seats in the Mazhilis – the ruling Amanat party (previously Nur Otan), Aq Jol, and the People’s Party.
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