Analysis

OPINION: Kazakhstan voters likely to favor continuity

New government after poll results to place high premium on continuity and pursue Moscow-centric foreign policy

Zaki Shaikh   | 10.01.2021
OPINION: Kazakhstan voters likely to favor continuity A polling station is seen as people arrive to cast their votes for parliamentary elections in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan on January 10, 2021.After Kazakhstan’s last parliamentary elections in 2016, the nation is headed to the polls to elect new lawmakers to 5-year terms. ( Meiramgul Kussainova - Anadolu Agency )

The writer is a UK based analyst and has worked with universities in three Central Asian countries. 

LONDON

In Kazakhstan, the polling for the parliamentary elections took place on Sunday under severe cold conditions. With temperatures dipping to minus 12 degrees Celsius (10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital Nur Sultan, the polling proceeded quite peacefully. What was uppermost in the minds of people was their livelihoods. During the campaign few signs of apathy among the country’s middle class were also visible. But political analysts believe that it is still a long time for them to equip themselves to garner enough popular support to bring any meaningful change in the country’s political landscape in near future.

A section among authorities is, however, nervous although they believe that events that happened in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova could not be repeated in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan, which also conducted presidential polls and a referendum on Sunday after a bout of instability and street protests shares 1212 kilometers (753 miles) of borders with Kazakhstan.

President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, 67, who assumed office in March 2019, attaches great importance to ensure stability in the country since the country’s founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 80, stepped down on March 20, 2019, after ruling for 29 years. To consolidate his position as a firm leader Tokayev aspires to earn the credit that despite the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences on people’s lives and livelihoods, he succeeded in preventing any crisis.

The world's largest landlocked country with a population of 18.3 million, Kazakhstan is the most dominant nation in Central Asia economically, generating 60% of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil and gas industry.

Speaking to Kazakhstan’s News 24 news channel Alain Corvez a French strategic consultant said the Central Asian nation was steadily establishing democratic practices, by taking small steps both in political and social spheres. The channel expressed hope that the newly elected MPs will set new goals to help to overcome the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit hard the economy and the wellbeing of the citizens.

Tokayev introduced legislation called Parliamentary Opposition Bill, to allow one opposition party to function against the ruling Nur Otan (Radiant Fatherland) party, which held 84% seats in the 2016 elections.

In addition to Nur Otan, four other political parties all loyal to the ruling party -- Adal (Honest), Auyl (Village), Ak Zhol (Bright Path), and the People's Party (ex-Communists’ Party) – are also participated in the elections.

The elections were held to fill 98 out of 107 parliamentary seats. The remaining nine seats will be separately elected by the country's ethnic groups through the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan -- a national political body in Kazakhstan consisting of delegates of the regional assemblies.

Dmitry Zhuravlev, head of the Russian Institute of Regional Crisis said the calmness in Kazakhstan marked by an absence of heated political confrontation is admirable. He said it is due to the prevailing political setup which is gaining stabilization.

After the election results, the appointment of a new government by Tokayev is likely to place a high premium on continuity rather than change. The country will continue to follow a Moscow-centric foreign policy that strives to maintain a close friendship between the two countries. Kremlin is always considered as the source of support to steer Kazakhstan from any turbulences that have been observed in other former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Belarus. Aspirations to continue such enduring alignment are unlikely to be altered by the outcome of the latest elections.

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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