On 21 March preliminary figures showed President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s party Nur Otan won 82 percent of the vote in the snap parliamentary elections held on 20 March in Kazakhstan. In January Nazarbaev called for early parliamentary elections, in a move to consolidate his grip on power before the already damaged economic situation would worsen even more.
The Central Election Commission said the two other parties which passed the 7 percent threshold are the Ak Zhol party (7,22%) and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (7,17%), both allied with Nazarbaev. This means that the new parliament will consist of the same three parties as before. Three other parties which participated but did not pass the threshold were Auyl (Village) (2,05%) and Birlik (Unity) (0,35%) – both loyal to Nazarbaev – and the opposition All-National Social-Democratic Party (1,21%).
The snap elections were criticized by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) saying the elections fell short of Kazakh’s commitments for democratic elections. OSCE Special Coordinator for the election observation, Marietta Tidei said: "It is clear that Kazakhstan still has a long way to go towards fulfilling its election commitments, although some progress was noted". "The ruling party had a clear advantage over others in these elections, and while the parties were generally able to campaign freely, genuine political choice remains insufficient,” she said. According to the Social Democrats the vote was rigged.
This election could open the door for Nazarbaev;s daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva to enter the parliament. Dariga is deputy prime minister and is also on the list of candidates of the Nur Otan party. A move from the government to the parliament could be interpreted as a step to eventually transition the power to her according to observers. The makeup of the faction, however, is still unclear. From the list of 127 candidates, there is place for 107 seats in the parliament.
Difficult economic situation
Kazakhstan’s economy was hit hard by low oil prices and other raw materials, which are the main sources of Kazakhstan’s income, and by the economic crisis in Russia, Kazakhstan’s main trade partner. In case the economy was about to worsen in the future, authorities wanted to consolidate their power in a time when they were still able to achieve the desired results .
Since Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991, the Nur Otan party has traditionally garnered the majority. The previous parliamentary election in 2012 was the first to be held after the creation of a new election law aimed at ending the single-party domination of Nur Otan. However, both in the last parliamentary election and in the most recent election, Nur Otan remained the dominant party with more than 80 percent. Moreover, Western observers have never judged an election free and fair in Kazakhstan.
Sources: Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Trend News Agency, Eurasianet, Yahoo, RFE/RL 1, RFE/RL 2