What Distinguishes the 2023 Elections for the Mazhilis and Maslikhats From the Previous Ones?

February 21, 2023

Deputies of the Mazhilis and maslikhats will be elected in Kazakhstan on March 19. It will be an unusual election.
Firstly, the number of Mazhilis members of the new convocation will decrease from 107 to 98. This is due to the fact that the quota of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan was transferred from the Mazhilis to the Senate.

Secondly, 98 deputies will be elected according to a mixed system, and for the first time in 19 years. That is, 69 deputies will be elected to the Mazhilis from political parties according to party lists, as before, and 29 in single-mandate districts. Thus, 30 percent of the seats in the chamber will be occupied by self-nominees.

Prior to that, Kazakhstanis voted only for political parties that received the number of seats in the Mazhilis proportional to the votes cast (for example, a party that received 25 percent of the votes gets a quarter of all seats). The party leadership decides which candidates will be elected to parliament.
And now, along with this, self-nominated candidates will also run. The candidate who receives the majority of votes in their constituency will be declared the winner. Therefore, currently small parties or independent non-partisan candidates have the opportunity to participate and win in elections.

It's been that day before
Did you know that the first Mazhilis in 1995 was formed exclusively from self-nominated candidates and consisted of only 67 people? Afterward, well-known independent figures emerged who engaged in intense debates and formed coalitions. During the second convocation of the Mazhilis, there were already 77 members, of whom 67 were self-nominated as in the previous term, while 10 were selected from party lists. ­The same arrangement applied to the third convocation of parliament.

But in 2007, the Constitution was amended: there were 107 seats in the Mazhilis, nine of which are occupied by deputies elected by the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan­, and the remaining 98 are elected only by party lists. Since then, self-nominated candidates have not been able to participate in the elections. Consequently, during the fourth convocation in 2007, only Nur Otan party won all 98 seats in the Mazhilis, while the APK party received nine seats. During the fifth, sixth, and seventh convocations, Aq Jol and CPPK parties, in addition to the ruling party, won seats in the Mazhilis by surpassing the 7% electoral threshold.

Thus, the elections of Mazhilis members from single-mandate districts were held in 1995, 1999, 2004. And in the elections of 2007, 2012, 2016 and 2021, voting was conducted only on party lists.

How districts were divided
Voting for deputies elected from political parties according to party lists will take place as usual: in a single nationwide electoral district. To facilitate the election of self-nominated candidates, the territory of Kazakhstan was divided into 29 electoral districts. Moreover, there should be at least one single-mandate member of Mazhilis from each region, including from the Ulytau region, whose population is slightly more than 230 thousand people.

From the December resolution of the CEC on the formation of district election commissions, it follows that in Almaty and Turkestan region, whose population exceeds 2 million people, there will be three districts, which means three deputy mandates in the mazhilis.

In the regions of millions - Almaty, Zhambyl, and Karaganda, as well as in Astana and Shymkent, there will be two electoral districts, which means that two deputies will be elected to the lower house.

One deputy will represent the rest of the regions - Abai, Akmola, Aktobe, Atyrau, East ­Kazakhstan, West Kazakhstan, Kostanay, ­Kyzylorda, ­Mangystau, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan, Zhetysu, Ulytau regions.

Thus, 14 self-nominated Mazhilis members will represent the south of the country, six - the north, four - the west, three - the center and two - the east.

Who can self-nominate
Political scientist Gaziz ABISHEV recalled that according to the constitutional law “On Elections”, the right to be elected in single-mandate districts belongs to political parties, public associations, as well as their branches and representative offices, if the corresponding authority is provided for in the charter, and also to citizens by self-nomination.

The self-nomination of candidates for deputies of the Mazhilis is carried out by submitting to the district election commission an application of intention to run in this single-mandate territorial electoral district.

Each Mazhilis candidate running in a single-mandate district is required to make an election deposit of 15 times the minimum wage, which amounts to 1,050,000 tenge, to the account of the CEC after verification of their eligibility. The candidate who wins or receives at least five percent of the votes, the election fee is refunded in full.

According to the Constitution, a person who has reached the age of 25, is a citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan and has been permanently residing in its territory for the last 10 years can be a member of Parliament. According to Gaziz Abishev, being a citizen is a requirement for eligibility, but one doesn't have to be born in Kazakhstan to qualify. Naturalized citizens are also eligible for nomination, but those who resided abroad between 2013-2023 are not eligible. There are no requirements for higher education, language proficiency and work experience.

The Constitution also stipulates that individuals who have been declared legally incompetent by the court, as well as those who are serving a sentence in a detention facility based on a court decision, are not entitled to run for election, vote, or participate in a national referendum. Abishev explains that this implies that if an individual's criminal record has been expunged, has completed their sentence, and is not currently incarcerated, then they are not restricted from pursuing their parliamentary ambitions.
The return to single-mandate districts was the reason for the interest in self-nomination. It is already known that independent observer Arailym NAZAROVA, civil activist and lawyer Alnur ILYASHEV, as well as journalists Dinara EGEUBAYEVA and Duman MUKHAMMEDKARIM are preparing for the elections to the Mazhilis as people's candidates.

By the way, in addition to the possibility of self-nomination, Kazakhstanis also received the right to revoke the deputy mandate of the self-nominated candidate. For example, if he does not fulfill his election promises or does not meet with voters. To do this, 30 percent of voters must put their signatures under the application. In this case, the election commission determines the date of voting. If more than half of the voters vote for the recall of the deputy mandate, then this will happen.

Who claims from the political parties
These parties include Amanat, Aq Jol, People's Party of Kazakhstan (the PPK), Auyl, and the National Social Democratic Party (the NSDP).

On November 30 of last year, the Ministry of Justice registered the Baitak Green Party and just last week, the Respublica party was also registered.
Thus, at the moment there are seven registered parties in the country that can participate in the elections. At the same time, according to the latest amendments, the threshold for political parties to enter parliament has been reduced from seven to five percent of votes.

It is important to note another significant change in the electoral process: the president is no longer allowed to lead a political party, which means that the ruling party no longer has the same advantages that it used to enjoy in previous elections. Kassym-Jomart TOKAYEV has already resigned from the parliamentary majority party, and this rule will apply to the next presidents.

How will the mandates be distributed among the winners
If senators are elected by deputies of maslikhats, then the Mazhilis members will be chosen by the residents of the country themselves. At the same time, they will be able to vote abroad. There were 11.95 million voters in Kazakhstan in the recent presidential elections.

Political scientist Gaziz Abishev has roughly calculated how many votes parties and independent candidates need to gain to get into the Mazhilis.

If the total number of voters in the country is almost 12 million people and parties need to get at least five percent of the votes, then with a one hundred percent turnout of Kazakhstanis for the elections, this is 600 thousand votes, and exactly five percent of the distribution gives, as the political scientist suggests, four mandates. According to the self-nominated candidates, the situation is as follows: if 12 million voters are divided into 29 districts, it turns out almost 414 thousand voters in each. A guaranteed victory with a one hundred percent turnout is acquired by ­obtaining 207 thousand votes. But this is all conditional, because there are districts of less than 414 thousand voters.

Against All
By the way, Kazakhstanis will be able to vote "agains all" in the early elections of the Mazhilis. In the case where the "against all" option receives the majority of votes among ­self-nominated candidates

? - If one candidate receives 20% of the votes while the rest receive less, according to the law, the candidate who received 20% of the votes will become a deputy, despite the fact that 55% of the votes were cast for the "against all" option. Such explanations were given by representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the CEC before the presidential elections. According to political analyst Gaziz Abishev, if such a situation arises where the "against all" option receives the most votes among the self-nominees, and one candidate receives only 20 percent of the votes, then the pressure from society may force the winner to give up their mandate, leading to a by-election in the district.

Do not get confused
The election process for maslikhats will also undergo changes. Now, at the regional level, maslikhats are formed by 50 percent on party lists and by 50 percent on single ­­mandate districts. And at the district level, maslikhats will be formed by 100 percent of self-nominees. Before that, voters could only vote according to party lists, voting for the party.

Political scientist Daniyar ASHIMBAYEV drew attention to the fact that voters in megacities will be given four ballots, and in the regions - five. According to him, this is because the elections to the mazhilis and maslikhats in our country are held simultaneously.

- Since there are no district maslikhats in Almaty, Astana and Shymkent, only the city maslikhat and the mazhilis are chosen there. In total, there are four ballots: two for voting in the elections to the Mazhilis - for choosing according to party lists and for an independent candidate, and in the same way two ballots for voting in the maslikhat. And in the regions, in addition to the big maslikhat and the mazhilis, small maslikhats are also elected, these are maslikhats of districts and cities of regional significance. Therefore, residents of the regions will have five ballots each. Therefore, the upcoming elections will be difficult both for parties and independent candidates, and for voters," Ashimbayev said.

What's next?
After the elections to the Mazhilis, in accordance with the Constitution, the government will resign before the newly elected Mazhilis. As President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted in his Address to the People on September 1, not only the winning party, but also those parties that entered the Mazhilis, but do not have a majority, should participate in the formation of the government. All political parties that have passed the threshold will be able to have at least one or two representatives in the government.

Source: time.kz