Kazakhstan elections: Ruling party expected to solidify grip on power

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s party is expected to win a big victory in snap elections, voting for which took place on Sunday (March 19). A stronger mandate from the voters is likely to help the president to find way through regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Although he formally became president in 2019, Tokayev, 69, had remained in the shadow of his predecessor and former patron Nursultan Nazarbayev until January 2022, when the two fell out amid an attempted coup and violent unrest.

After he suppressed the political unrest in the oil-rich Central Asian country, Tojkayev sidelined Nazarbayev and had number of his associates removed from senior public sector positions. Some of those who were removed would late face corruption charges.

While Tokayev has reshuffled the government, the lower house of parliament – elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping powers and led the ruling Nur Otan party – was not due for election until 2026, and the president called a snap vote.

Unlike Nazarbayev, Tokayev has chosen not to lead the ruling party, rebranded Amanat, but polls show it is likely to retain a comfortable majority and form the core of his support base in the legislature, especially in the absence of strong opposition parties on the ballot.

However, in what is a first in almost twenty years, several opposition figures are running as independents. This has created space for some government critics to win a limited number of seats.

Still, in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city which usually shows most support for opposition, voting appeared slow on Sunday morning amid heavy police presence on the streets.

“We keep complaining that nothing changes in our country and we ourselves take no part in our country’s political life,” said Yevgeniya, a 36-year-old marketing executive who declined to give her last name or say for whom she voted. “Going out and voting is the least we can do to bring about change.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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