How Will the Elections to the Mazhilis and Maslikhats Be Held

February 27, 2023

With the start of the election race in Kazakhstan, the electorate's attention has shifted to domestic politics. Economists are warning that the new parliament, which will be formed after the elections on March 19, may resign prematurely. The reason is the accumulated problems in the economy and the lack of an anti-crisis plan. Magbat Spanov, an expert of the Institute of Innovative Economy, a professor at the Kazakh National University, told about this in an interview with

- The current election cycle in Kazakhstan, which began with a referendum and ends with elections to the Mazhilis, was superimposed on a series of crises in the economy of the country. What problems should be solved first of all, and why?

- If we're talking about the current economic difficulties in the context of elections, then parliament can do a lot. But it should be understood that the parliament is playing for the long-term perspective. The legislative base as a basis requires time - at least a year. Now, in order to reduce the tension, the government, ministers, deputy prime ministers and the prime minister should also visit the regions and explain what they want to do, what their plans are. What will happen with demonopolization, with de-oligarchization, with economic indicators, what economic model we will have.

But so far this is not there. That's why they are asking for the population to be patient. That there will soon be some kind of payoff. But the population can't stand it any longer. We have been suffering for many years.

- What tools does Astana have for overcoming the crisis?
- I don't agree with the program of deoligarchization which is being realized now. Unfortunately, it developed in a way that finances are concentrated in separate hands in Kazakhstan.

Do you remember, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told about 162 people, who own everything. And here we have to know how to negotiate. Not according to justice, but according to law. For the oligarchs to invest in the country, not to allocate money from the budget. For that Klebanov (Alexander Klebanov is the ultimate owner of Ekibastuz thermal power plant - from Ekibastuz not just to give the state a heating plant for 1 tenge, but to return the profits he made and invested in the restructuring of the plant.

Putting someone in jail is the easiest thing to do. You can take some of the money, but this will not solve the problem, because the lion's share of the money will go away anyway. The government must learn to negotiate.

As a neo-Marxist political economist, I will say this: there is an era of initial accumulation of capital. By honest or dishonest way - it is not so important. Now this era in Kazakhstan begins to end with the introduction of universal declaration. And now is the best time for negotiations.

In Kazakhstan, during all years of independence, foreign investors were in the first place, not domestic ones. And the Government should create all the conditions for the appearance of domestic investors, the possible middle class, which will become the basis for the stable socio-economic development of the country, in which external cataclysms will not be so terrible. Because a domestic investor will not run away from the country en masse and remove capital en masse, as it's happening now.

- January events, growth of near-religious movements and their promotion in the ranks of Kazakhstani public - is it all a political reflection of economic crises?

- Politics is a concentrated expression of economics. Naturally, everything is interconnected. But the main thing is that we do not understand what country we are building. As a social scientist and political economist, I personally do not understand all these concepts offered by the present authorities.

The previous leaders had quite understandable goals, for example, to join the fifty competitive countries. And now there is some sort of disarray. I am an adult. I need peace of mind. But what kind of tranquility can there be if most of our young people are unemployed.

We now have 350,000-400,000 people graduating from school every year and entering the market. Let 100 thousand of them go to universities, and in addition, about 70-80 thousand jobs are created every year. And what to do with the rest? Nowhere to do!
Accordingly, when people have no means of livelihood and no way to earn a living, there will be those who can gather these young people and use them in one way or another for their own purposes. When there is no help from the state, when the state ideology is lame, there is always another ideology, which will help in deed and support in word.

And apart from religion, nothing has been invented yet. But religion also has different trends: some are traditional and some are extremist. So it's not surprising that young people often join extremism. Because the state hasn't treated them fairly and hasn't given them the opportunity to fulfill themselves.

- Will the economic situation manage to stabilize, and when? With what problems in the economy will Kazakhstan enter the next electoral cycle?

- We will be able to stabilize the situation at best by 2025. Because this year the world economy is entering deep into recession. In addition, there is no end in sight to the conflict between Russia and Europe, and it is most likely that there will be a further hardening. And given that in many respects Kazakhstan's logistics and economy operate within the EAEU, we will incur certain costs, which pose great threats and risks to us.

In 2024, there will be a slight improvement, and in 2025 there will be possible real economic growth.
And it seems to me that the new parliament, which we still have to elect on March 19, will not make it to the end of its term. Because the situation may radically change at any moment: the economy defines everything now.

- Are there any examples of successful management and how to pull the country out of crisis?

- Of course there are. I can name three of the best managers. First is Akezhan Kazhegeldin (second Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, in 1994-1997 -, who served in very difficult conditions. In second place is Imangali Tasmagambetov (he was Prime Minister in 2002-2003. Now the Secretary General of the CSTO - He laid the regulatory framework for improving the efficiency of agriculture and diversification, which, unfortunately, was not used by our state.

There are four factors of production - capital, labor, land and innovation. In 1992, we had a mass privatization law that triggered the first two factors - capital and labor - and led to the emergence of private ownership in the country. In 2003 Tasmagambetov's government adopted two more normative-legal acts which were to launch the remaining two factors - agricultural land and innovation/entrepreneurship.

But, unfortunately, they failed to do so. And in third place I would put Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, under whose reign the economic growth has begun thanks to those reforms which Kazhegeldin put in place in his time. Under Tokayev, economic growth was the highest, more than 13 percent.
- You mean, Tokayev when he was Prime Minister in 1999-2002?
- Yes. Those were my top three prime ministers.
- So, the logical question is why an effective premier Tokayev wasn't as effective economically when he was president.
- The president's tasks and goals are different from those of a prime minister. There is not only the economy, but also politics and the social sphere. Also, it seems to me that the acting president was too long absent from the country and was formed as a leader more abroad. This is the reason of misunderstanding of many internal processes.

In Kazakhstan he immediately started with leading positions: vice-minister, minister, prime minister, chairman of the Senate and so on. That's why he sometimes makes fatal mistakes in the economy and social policy.

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