How Victory of the Pro-Presidential Party Became a Symbol of Change in Kazakhstan

March 22, 2023

Toppress publishes the expert opinion on the party competition in the elections to the Mazhilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan of the political analyst Aidar Amrebayev.

The Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan has summarized the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections. According to preliminary calculations, the votes were distributed as follows:

1) Amanat - 53.90%
2) Auyl - 10,90%
3) Respublica - 8,59%
4) Aq Jol - 8.41%
5) People’s Party of Kazakhstan - 6.80%
6) National Social Democratic Party- 5,20%
7) Against all - 3,90%
8) Baytaq - 2.30%

Let us try to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the electoral campaign in the context of party representation.

Firstly, it should be taken into account that we are talking about the parties admitted to the elections and participating under proportional electoral system in Mazhilis of the Parliament. Analyzing voters' preferences, it must be borne in mind that not all voters were satisfied with party representation in the elections, i.e. they could not find parties that met their interests in the party lists on the ballot papers.

According to party lists 69 deputies were elected to Mazhilis of the Parliament, which is 70% of deputies. 29 people (30% of the composition of the Parliament) were elected from single-mandate constituencies according to the majoritarian principle. Perhaps this somewhat complicated system created the effect that there were a significant number of voters "against all" from among those who came to vote, as well as absentee voters who ignored the elections altogether. It should be noted, that turnout for Mazhilis elections was 54,19%, which amounted to 6 521 860 people out of total number of potential voters in number of 12 million 32 thousand 550 people entitled to vote. The highest turnout was in Kyzylorda region - 67.21%. The lowest turnout was shown by Almaty - 25.82%.

Secondly, a part of the protest electorate focused on the elections in single-mandate districts according to the majoritarian principle, voting for single-mandate candidates known in the media space - critics of the authorities. Since candidates who were party members also ran in the single-mandate districts, it was interesting to observe the ratio of those who won from parties to those who won from self-nominated candidates in stiff competition. This gives a more objective idea of what the actual support of the authorities among active representatives of civil society is, and, in general, the mindset of this part of the population.

At the moment we are witnessing a rather acute phase of appeals from a number of unsuccessful single-mandate candidates challenging the results of the elections. It is obvious that in the future there should be more thoroughly elaborated mechanisms of public control over the electoral process, elimination of the influence of administrative resources on the results and procedural violations in the electoral process.

Thirdly, it should be noted that the government has really decided to make a rather risky experiment by resorting to mixed electoral system (70% proportional and 30% majoritarian representation in Mazhilis of the Parliament), while allowing two new parties to participate in the elections, which managed to "draw" some part of the electorate to itself.

For example, the start of Respublica can be called quite successful for the young party, which was able to fight its direct competitor – Aq Jol party. Albeit with a small gap - only 0.18%. This is an indisputable achievement of the newly formed party. This phenomenon suggests that the society has a fairly stable request for renewal, new faces in politics.

However, to be fair, it should be noted that the newly formed parties Republica and Baitak still have rather poorly developed program documents and ideological platforms. In fact, they still represent the current trendy social movements, but not mature parties. However, the current public demand for new names and political brands was satisfied.

Of course, the Baitak party was still outside the passing barrier to the parliament, getting the least number of votes, but I think, taking into account the topicality of environmental issues and gaining experience in election campaigns, this party can eventually gain serious political weight.
Fourth, despite the expectations of some experts that the ‘Against All’ item on the ballots would gain a significant amount of votes, these predictions did not come true. Society is still disposed in a constructive spirit toward dialogue, toward working out compromise solutions between the authorities and society, and toward working out practical solutions in favor of the people.

Fifth, an important breakthrough for the Auyl party was its second place by the results of preliminary vote count for this party (10.90%). We must recognize that this party gained political weight in a fairly short period of time. At the same time, it managed to develop an effective electoral strategy of reliance on the soil workers, those who not only live in the countryside, but also those who are brought up in the spirit of respect for their native language and traditions with reverence to the national traditions. In general, we can say that this party has managed to used the national-patriotic theme, which was mentioned by many experts as an electoral resource.
The experience of the promoted leader of the party, ex-presidential candidate Zhiguli Dairabayev, also allowed the party to achieve serious results. Now Auyl will be able to form its own faction in the parliament, which will be able to lobby the interests not only of the large group of the country's rural population, but also of the patriotically minded electorate. It could be said that Auyl in fact turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of the whole electoral campaign. Having played on the nostalgia of the countrymen of yesterday and today and campaigning strictly in its niche, the party took a part of the village and a part of the nostalgic urban population as well as so-called national-patriotic electorate. Thus, Auyl has proved the consistency of relying on values rather than rational programs.

Sixth, the parliamentary long-lived parties Aq Jol and PPK were almost forced out by the new parties from their seats. For example, only lowering the electoral threshold allowed PPK to be around, despite assurances of the new leader of former communists Yermukhamet Yertysbayev about possible surprising results in elections, which the party under his leadership could achieve. In fact, the party failed to captivate the electorate with outdated populist slogans. Its electorate was successfully divided between Auyl party, which began to position itself as the party of working people and Amanat, which offered quite strong and socially oriented program. Aq Jol, despite the sufficiently experienced team of party members, got stuck in the former obligations and promises of quasi-state and semi-business structure, which was transformed into this party group.

Seventh, quite predictably, in spite of the ongoing process of re-branding and renewal, the party Amanat successfully worked its election campaign. In this case, even the ironic remark that the party has lost a lot of its power since the last election (from 71% to 53.90% of votes), Amanat revived, having renewed its membership by 75% and thoroughly reworked its pre-election program, which turned out to be the most realistic and realizable.

The renewed party received a full-fledged mandate of popular trust for the next five years. During the election campaign, Amanat surpassed its competitors both ideologically and organizationally. The party prepared for the election campaign better than others. Its election headquarters was able to organize the coordinated work of tens of thousands of party activists in thousands of settlements. Amanat has proved in practice that it is the party which is close and understandable to the people. From the political point of view, 53.9 % received as a result of fair competitive struggle, without a slightest use of administrative resource, means that the renewed party has received legitimate and sound mandate of people's trust for the next five years. All questions that society previously had about the party and its political past are finally gone.

We can conclude that the victory of Amanat is not a loss for other parties. It is the victory of integrated, socially responsible agenda. The newly elected Mazhilis fully reflects the will of the Kazakh electorate. Also as a result of these elections for the first time in our country the standard of conducting elections in the post-transit era in the direction of building harmonious communitarianism in which interests of different social groups of population are combined with various ideological preferences was set. Free competition and corresponding natural increase in the number of parliamentary political parties is an indicator of effectiveness of the Head of the State strategy directed to representation of wide public interests. In this respect, it is obvious that Amanat will be in the forefront of political, socio-economic and cultural transformations in the country.