Kazakhstan’s ruling party tops parliamentary elections amid opposition boycott

Nur Otan, Kazakhstan’s ruling party, topped the preliminary results in Kazakhstan’s January 10 parliamentary elections.

According to the Central Election Commission, Nur Otan led by First President Nursultan Nazarbayev captured 71.1 percent in the election, which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said “lacked genuine competition.”

Two other parties, both with seats in the previous parliament, cleared the 7 percent threshold to secure seats — Ak Zhol (Bright Path) and the People’s Party (formerly the Communist People’s Party).

The exact seat breakdown has not been announced, but Nur Otan held 84 seats in the previous parliament, with Ak Zhol and the People’s Party holding seven seats each. The new parliament will have a similar breakdown, heavily weighted toward Nur Otan.

The OSCE said the election campaign was not competitive and that voters “had no genuine political alternatives to choose from” as “all political parties contesting the elections supported the policies of the ruling party.”

The All-National Social Democratic Party (OSDP) boycotted the election. Askhat Rakhimzhanov, the head of the party, said the election would be dominated by the “same” political elite as always in explaining his decision to boycott. That decision, however, came after Mukhtar Ablyazov called on his followers to vote for OSDP.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, the 80-year-old former president who stepped down in 2019, remains hugely influential as chairman of the national security council and leader of Nur Otan

The former Soviet country has never held an election deemed free or fair by Western vote monitors.

While the election outcome will dampen hopes of political reform encouraged by Kazakhstan’s Western partners, it will help to ensure stability that has helped the country of 19 million attract hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment, primarily into the oil, gas and mining sectors.

In an attempt to modernise the system without relinquishing his party’s tight grip on power, Tokayev has overseen the introduction of quotas for women and under-29s in political parties’ candidate lists.

The World Bank has estimated Kazakhstan’s economy shrank 2.5 percent in 2020 as it grappled with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic – a first year-on-year recession in some 20 years.