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Kazakhstan prepares for parliamentary elections
Opposition is guaranteed some seats
By Gulmira Kamziyeva
ASTANA – Astana is preparing for early parliamentary elections, scheduled for mid-January. The new Majilis, or lower chamber, will become multi-party because of a recent reform that entitles the second most popular party in the election to seats in parliament.
Following a request from 53 of the 107 deputies November 10, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree dissolving the Fourth Majilis and setting Majilis elections for January 15. The political parties plan to hold their conventions before the end of November.
The fourth parliament’s term had previously been set to end in August 2012.
“Next year, we expect a new wave of the financial/economic crisis, and because of this, it is important to get through the elections cycle more quickly,” said the statement from the parliamentarians.
The president’s Nur Otan Party will hold its convention November 25, followed a day later by the conventions for the Communist People’s Party and All-National Social Democratic Party (or Azat). Parties will review election platforms and approve candidate lists, and Azat will decide whether to compete in the elections.
The only party barred from the election is the Communist Party, because a “court order suspended its activities,” said Kaundyk Turgankulov, chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), referring to a six-month suspension imposed in October for helping organise an illegal movement to monitor the Mangistau Oblast oil workers’ strike.
“The parties have already begun nominating candidates, which will go on until December 5, and 10 days after that, the CEC will conduct registration for the party lists,” Turgankulov added. “Ninety-eight MPs will be elected from the party lists, and the Assembly of Peoples of Kazakhstan will choose nine.”
The Assembly is a consultative body loyal to Nazabayev.
Multi-party nature of new parliament praised
“Thanks to these elections, Kazakhstan’s parliament will become multi-party,” said Senator Gasi Kasymov. “We (will) have moved away from a one-party monopoly, so I think that whatever party comes out of this, it will all the same bring new changes to the Majilis’s work. … “There will be arguments and there will be alternative opinions, so everything is good,” said Kasymov.
But Communist Party leader Gaziz Aldamzharov called the elections unnecessary.
“The people don’t care who takes the seats of the old MPs because the MPs don’t work with the people. They will sit there just as they sat there before. So I think that this is just a show,” he said.
Kazakhstani political analyst Dosym Satpayev from the Risk Assessment Group hopes the parliament will gain strength and independence from these elections. “Up until now, it was not exactly clear what was the purpose of the elections ... If this was all done for the sake of parliament becoming multi-party, then we’ll just be repeating our old mistakes.”
“[The other option is] if we’re talking about how these early parliamentary elections should form a strong parliament in the future, which will differ from the old. We are talking about its emergence and the strengthening of parliament itself in terms of its functions and powers, which it should have more of. And the ultimate goal of all of this should be the transformation of our presidential system into a presidential-parliamentary one.”
A genuinely multi-party parliament will boost Kazakhstan’s development, said Anatoly Rostichenko, an instructor in the Oriental Studies Department of the L. N. Gumilyev Eurasian National University in Astana. “The views of all of the parties will be represented, and not just those of the ruling one. This will also improve Kazakhstan’s image in the global arena, something that is far from trivial. The most important thing is for this good initiative to have a good result.”