Kazakh leader’s party wins landslide in snap parliamentary vote

Kazakh leader’s party wins landslide in snap parliamentary vote

ASTANA – Reuters
Kazakh leader’s party wins landslide in snap parliamentary vote

AP photo

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party won a landslide in the March 20 snap parliamentary election by capturing 82 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results announced on March 21. 

The Central Election Commission said two other parties, the Communists and Ak Zhol, had passed the 7 percent threshold needed to win seats, meaning that the lower house, the Mazhilis, will include the same three parties as before. 

Three other parties, the Social Democrats, Birlik (Unity) and Auyl (Village), won less than 7 percent each. The preliminary results were almost identical to exit poll figures announced earlier on March 21. 

Nazarbayev, 75, congratulated his party at a “victors’ forum” event in Astana where he walked triumphantly to the stage as thousands of youths dressed in his party’s blue and yellow colors chanted: “Nursultan! Nur Otan!” 

“This is a great accomplishment of our democracy,” he said. 

Such results are unlikely to surprise anyone in the oil-rich Central Asian nation Nazarbayev has run since 1989, brooking little dissent, which has never held an election judged free and fair by Western observers. 

Harder to predict is the makeup of Nur Otan’s faction, as it has 127 candidates vying for places in the 107-seat Mazhilis. 

Observers are focusing, in particular, on the president’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who is deputy prime minister and also on the party list as a candidate. 

Her potential move to parliament, where she could become the speaker of the lower house, would be interpreted as a step towards an eventual transition of power to her. 

Nazarbayev called the vote in January, apparently favoring an early election in case the economy, hit hard by the slump in the price of oil, were to worsen in the course of the year. 

He said on March 20 that his government was considering a constitutional reform that would give the parliament greater powers, but gave no timeframe for that. 

Nazarbayev has also indicated that the March 20 vote, which will automatically trigger a vote of confidence in the government when the new lower house convenes, was unlikely to result in a major reshuffle of ministers. 

According to the Central Election Commission, 77.1 percent of Kazakhstan’s 9.8 million registered voters had turned up at polling stations.