A Tokaev-friendly parliament in Astana
Potentially problematic parties for the ruling caste are excluded from the vote. Thus Tokaev will not be able to get rid of the old guard linked to his predecessor Nazarbaiev. Without real reforms, riots similar to those of January 2022 could reoccur.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan, to be held on 19 March, appear to be largely an attempt to strengthen the personal power of President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev, as most observers from various countries write.
After his hasty re-election as president at the end of a year of tensions and dramatic internal and external events, Tokaev must now consolidate his role as a 'democratic reformer', but he risks creating further disappointment and unrest in the country.
As Almaz Kuzmenov notes in Eurasianet, the formal simplification of registration procedures for political parties is not eliminating the practice of allowing only those groups most loyal to the regime to take part.
A certain fervour of participation was aroused by the presidential decision to reduce the minimum number of members needed to register a party, from 20 to 5,000. Hopes were greatly reduced after the Ministry of Justice refused to admit the opposition parties Alga, Kazakhstan!, Namys and other groups.
The leader of Namys, Sanžar Bomaev, is now an established businessman, having been a ruling party official for years. He complains that the government continues to invent all kinds of obstacles to prevent the participation of independent associations in the political struggle.
His views are shared by activist and journalist Sergei Duvanov, for whom 'there is no doubt that Akorda [the presidential palace] is tailoring its parliament to suit itself, making the electorate choose only those it knows it can control'.
In truth, two new parties have registered: one is Baytak, which expresses ecological positions, although so far it has not been involved in any major initiatives in this field. Its leader, Azamatkhan Amirtaj, is nevertheless in favour of Tokaev. The other party, Respublica, is also in favour of the Akorda line. The majority party of the last elections, Amanat, is, however, not sure about confirming its leadership, in Kuzmenov's opinion.
In turn, political scientist Tolganaj Umbetalieva, head of the Central Asian Foundation for the Development of Democracy, argues that the other two parties currently represented in the Mažilis (Ak Žol' and the People's Party) also cannot be sure of gaining any seats, because the Akorda does not trust them much.
"The old parties only support Tokaev's policies in order to survive in parliament, but they are too susceptible to the manipulations of former President Nazarbaev's men, which the current president must manage to get rid of.
Some moves by Nazarbayev's relatives and associates in the financial markets reveal that the old caste of 'eternal power' is far from willing to step aside.
Auyl and the National Social Democratic Party will also appear in the elections. The latter has so far been represented as the opposition, but appears to be a formation with exhausted potential.
The electoral law stipulates that of the 98 seats up for grabs, 69 will be allocated by proportional representation, while the remaining 29 will be contested in uninominal constituencies. In the various hypotheses on the results, many expect a parliament 'new in formation, but old in content'.
According to Umbetalieva, 'it is important for Tokaev that new men come to the Mažilis to support the project of a new Kazakhstan, faithfully following the indications of the system in power', but the risk is that 'the president is playing with fire, at home and with Russia'.
If the course of reform does not appear credible enough, there could be a repeat of uprisings similar to those of January 2022, which risked Moscow's troops invading Kazakhstan and then pouring into Ukraine.