Electoral Race in Single-Mandate Districts Highlights 2023 Elections

2nd of March, 2023

The early elections of deputies of Mazhilis and Maslikhats, scheduled for March 19 this year, are approaching. Recently the stage connected with registration of candidates and party lists was finished. On February 18, from 18.00 p.m. the election campaign started.

One of the main innovations of these elections is the appearance of single-mandate candidates. If earlier only parties participated in the electoral process and non-partisan citizens were deprived of the opportunity to be elected to the Mazhilis and local representative bodies, now the situation is changing.

According to the constitutional amendments, single-mandate members will account for 30% of the deputies of the Mazhilis, 50% of deputies of regional maslikhats and 100% of deputies of rayon and city maslikhats.

Now, after the majority component is introduced, each region will have the opportunity to elect at least one deputy to the lower chamber. This will allow for a better reflection and representation of interests and demands of different groups of the population in the mazhilis.

Why is there such an interest in the elections to the deputies of the Mazhilis in the framework of a single-mandate constituency?

At present there is a great demand for participation in the elections from public figures and activists in single-mandate constituencies.

Firstly, a surge of interest to the elections to the Mazhilis by majoritarian system is largely due to the fact that the last time such elections were held 19 years ago. Obviously, during this time the society has changed, the demand for citizens' participation in politics has matured.

Secondly, in recent years many public figures who are not party members but have political ambitions have appeared in the country. They can now participate in elections as self-nominated candidates, and voters have the opportunity to vote for specific individuals.

Third, against the background of electoral fatigue of parties, there is a need for new faces in politics, and this demand can be satisfied by independent candidates running on behalf of their region.

Electability in a single-mandate constituency is attractive, because if a self-nominee wins, he has an opportunity to speak independently and raise acute problems, without looking back at the party and the opinion of the party majority.

In addition, if the self-nominee wins the election, he or she will definitely get into parliament. In conditions when a candidate was on the party list, he or she could not be included in the final list, although he or she participated in the campaign.

What will be the level of competition between single-mandate candidates?

We see a very high competition for getting into the Mazhilis among single-mandate candidates, despite the fact that the number of deputy seats is only 29. It is possible that in the future, as socio-political activity increases, the share of single-mandate candidates in the highest representative district will increase.

435 candidates to deputies of the Mazhilis were registered in 29 single-mandate constituencies, of which the vast majority (359) are self-nominated.
That is, we can see a very large competition - on average, there are 15 candidates for one mandate. The biggest competition will be in Almaty with 37, 33, 34 (104 in total) candidates registered in three constituencies, and in the capital with 41 and 42 (83 in total) candidates in two constituencies.
For reference, it should be noted: single-mandate constituencies in the Mazhilis elections are formed in proportion to the number of candidates in the regions.

The appearance of such a large number of candidates was facilitated by rather mild registration conditions (among the main ones - the age of 25 years, residence in the country for the last ten years, and absence of a criminal record).

A large number of well-known public figures are concentrated in the fifth electoral district of Almaty, where a serious fight for votes of a conditionally critical part of the electorate will unfold. We can also see a wide representation of bright self-nominees in the capital's constituency No. 2.
The number of single-mandate deputies increases at the level of maslikhats. As it was mentioned above it is 50% of deputies of maslikhats of regions, cities of national status and the capital, as well as all deputies of maslikhats of cities and districts.

According to the CEC, 10,288 candidates were registered for 3,081 seats in maslikhats of all levels in single-mandate districts.

  • 1,451 candidates were registered in single-mandate constituencies for the elections to the maslikhats of oblasts, cities of national significance and the capital
  • 2,114 candidates - in single-mandate constituencies for the elections to the maslikhats of cities
  • 6,732 candidates - in single-mandate constituencies at the elections to Maslikhats of districts

The majority (6 359) are self-nominated, other candidates (3 929) are nominated by political parties, public associations.

Parties in the fight for single-mandate districts

Party representatives will also take part in the elections under the majoritarian system. It is an additional opportunity for them to get deputy seats in the Mazhilis, and therefore it is important for them to actively promote at the regional level.

In total, 76 party representatives from 29 districts will take part in the elections. Participation of the chairman of the party Baitak and deputy chairman of party Auyl in elections in the second constituency of Astana attracts attention.

Parties will have serious organizational and financial resources in the race against self-nominated candidates, which can be used during campaigning. The advantages of independent candidates are tired of parties, personal brand, personal recognition.

Peculiarities of election campaigning in single-mandate districts

It is important to understand that a single-mandate candidate will fight for the votes of the electorate of his constituency only, and not of all the Kazakhstani people possessing the right to vote (about 12 million).

Therefore, firstly, it reduces the cost of election campaign, and secondly, it allows one to focus on the problems of the district or his region. In general, the high level of competition among this group of candidates implies building an interesting and creative election campaign. After the start of the election campaign, one can already see the original cases in this direction.

Candidates, in particular, are trying to make effective use of their personal pages in social networks, and in general to interest the electorate with interesting campaign products, including through the Internet. It should be noted, however, that the single-mandate elections will be held under the relative majority system. This means that in order to win, it will be necessary to gain more than the other candidates (not a certain percentage).
If we talk about possible turnout, as a rule, it is lower in parliamentary elections than in presidential ones. According to a poll conducted by the
Public Opinion Institute on January 25-28, 2023, the level of potential voter turnout for the parliamentary elections of March 19, 2023 was 53.3%.
It is possible that the appearance of independent candidates on the ballots, as well as vivid campaigns by both single-mandate candidates and parties may influence the turnout of the Kazakhs in the upcoming elections to increase.

Thus, in the framework of the current election campaign we see a revival of socio-political life, which is primarily associated with the return of the majoritarian component.

At this stage, the key trend is a great demand for participation in elections from single-mandate candidates, especially self-nominated candidates.
As a result, well-known and authoritative persons will be able to represent the interests of their electorate in the supreme representative and legislative body and maslikhats.

It is their appearance can be an important factor in activating public politics in Kazakhstan, the growth of electoral and political culture, and democratization of the political process.

In general, according to the way the election campaign is developing now, interesting parliamentary elections are expected, including at the expense of unpredictable race by majoritarian system.

Arman Toktushakov, expert at the Institute of World Economy and Politics

Source: 365info.kz