Pre-election Debates: What Party Representatives Argued About

March 3, 2023

In four rounds each participant of debates tried to prove that his party is worthy to get a place in the Mazhilis.

On March 19, 2023, Kazakhstan will hold elections to the Mazhilis of the Parliament. Seven political parties and candidates from single-mandate districts will be competing for seats in the legislature.
On March 1 Qazaqstan TV channel held pre-election debates between the parties.

They were attended by:
- Deputy Chairman Berik Dyusembinov from the Aq Jol Democratic Party -;
- Executive Secretary Elnur Beisenbayev from the Amanat party;
- Deputy Chairman Zhiguli Dairabayev from the Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party;
- Chairman Azamatkhan Amirtayev from the Baitak Green Party;
- Deputy Chairman Askhat Asylbekov from the People's Party of Kazakhstan;
- Chairman of the city branch in Astana Nurlan Auesbaev from the National Social Democratic Party;
- Co-chairman Syrymbek Tau from the Respublica Party.
We watched the parties' debates and recounted the main points.
- Amanat eliminates injustice in the society.
- Auyl defends the status of a working man
- Respublica criticises education in villages
- PPK demands raising the minimum wage
- Baitak thinks of people sickened by bad ecology
- Aq Jol calls for respect for businessmen
- PSDP tough on corruption
- "Where were you in Ekibastuz?"
- What party can call itself an opposition party?
- Yermukhamet Yertysbayev is studying the Kazakh language
- "Where were you in Ekibastuz-2"
- Azat Peruashev is not "to be changed at the crossroads".
- On whose account is the holiday?
- About the villages without a future
- Three main problems for every party
- What the audience thinks about the debates

The debate was conducted in the state language, lasted 70 minutes and consisted of four rounds. In the first round, participants took turns telling about the main directions of the parties' election programs.

Yelnur Beisenbayev (Amanat): Fulfilling the orders of the President to create a just society.

"First, the Amanat party should eliminate injustice. I think we should not allow oligopolies to exist. Corruption must be eradicated completely. Also, we must participate in raising the income of every family, every citizen. Wages should always be increased. Every person should be under the tutelage of the state. Social assistance to all citizens will increase by 2.5 times. We take part in lowering the retirement age, including for workers in heavy industry."
"Every child should be happy. Kindergartens must be provided one hundred percent. We must eliminate emergency, three-shift schools. We give young people new opportunities. We will provide 1.5 million jobs for young people. We will once again double scholarships for students. We are solving the issue of hostels, we are helping young people as much as possible. I believe that all of this is the concrete implementation of the President's instructions to create a fair society.

Zhiguli Dairabayev (Auyl): Let's create the conditions for a working man.

"I will focus on the main issues in agriculture. The first is the status of the working man in the state. If we enter the Majilis, we will create conditions for the common man of labor - simple engineers, mechanics, combine harvesters, shepherds, construction workers, those who provide the country with food. We will strive to ensure that they have their place of honor in society."

"Second, there are 280,000 different businesses involved in agriculture. We're looking for a way to exempt them all from taxes. I have traveled to the villages, and today the number of citizens who want to improve the countryside is small. It is necessary to create opportunities for all citizens engaged in agriculture. For them to work in peace, we must stop all the talk about taxes. They just need to mind their own business. And we will find a way to get rid of taxes.

Syrymbek Tau (Respublica): First and foremost we will solve the issues of education

"We noticed a big difference between the urban and rural environment. The man of labor has a very low wage, the education of children in the village and in the city are five years apart. First of all, we must deal with education. Why can't a child born in the aul not learn the same way as in the city?"
"Secondly, we can say that medium-sized entrepreneurship in the villages has been killed. There are no conditions for medium-sized businesses, everything is only by oneself. Thirdly, we have to raise the qualifications of specialists. Neither in the village nor in the city there are no qualified specialists. For thirty years, some villages have not even built houses. We must improve the village and support educated young people.

Askhat Asylbekov (PPK): Let's form a powerful middle class.

"Our goal is to create a fair society in which the power and wealth of the country belong to the people of Kazakhstan. It is necessary to return real power to the majilis and maslikhats. Justice must begin with the courts. For this purpose, we demand popular elections to the district courts.

"There are 3 million poor and paupers in Kazakhstan. 8 million people are bogged down in loans. We insist on the adoption of the anti-poverty law. We will eradicate poverty in a short time. The people of Kazakhstan will form a powerful middle class after the tax reform we have proposed. We will increase the allowance for each child from 30 to 70 thousand tenge. And we will raise the minimum wage from 70 to 140 thousand tenge. We demand that women retire at 58, newlyweds get temporary apartments, and mortgages should not exceed 3%.

Azamathan Amirtayev ("Baitak"):

"The main goal of our party is to protect the environment and human health. For thirty years, the party has supported factories and entrepreneurship. What happened as a result? People started getting sick. We visited many factories, how many sick people there are. There are people dying of cancer, suffering from allergies. Who thinks about them? So the first is the environment, the second is human health."

"If we go into Parliament, we initiate a bill on local government. We do our best to make the voice of the local population in the village heard by the authorities. Under the concept of local self-government, we created a people's council in the Zhylyoi district of Atyrau region and implemented a pilot project. Now we've got the power, the knowledge and the experience to put this project into action.

Berik Dyusembinov (Aq Jol): Back to free market conditions

"Rising prices, expensive living - where did all this come from? This is thanks to people who privatized not only politics, but also the economy. Unfortunately, we are shown slides instead of the real economy. Instead of real enterprises, they create programs for which they spend huge amounts of money."

"Our goal is to go back to free, real market conditions. That means liberalizing the economy, limiting government involvement in the economy, and supporting real entrepreneurship. The businessman should be proud. Our citizens who provide for the country must be strong, respectable people. The tax authorities, which harm the business, should be held responsible for this".

Nurlan Auesbaev (PSDP): We will fight hard against corruption.

"The problems are not solved, and we have great suggestions in the program. First and foremost - free medical care, education, providing citizens with comfortable housing, increasing pensions, salaries, benefits, employment, reduction of high interest rates on loans."

"But the reason these issues are not being addressed is corruption. The corruption that has taken over our country is peaking. In Parliament, we will first and foremost fight corruption severely. We will not spare anyone. If we do not eliminate this problem, all the stories will repeat.

In the second round, party representatives asked questions to each other. According to the rules, all participants could enter the debate after two minutes of answer. Party support groups in the debate hall shouted slogans and hooted disapprovingly while their opponents were speaking. The moderator called for order, but it was difficult to understand the words of participants at such moments.

Nurlan Auesbayev (PSDP) asked the representative of the Amanat party how they were going to win the trust of the country:

"The party that has been in power for 20 years has brought our country into such a difficult situation. Now you want to enter parliament again, what are you going to do?"

Yelnur Beisenbayev (Amanat):

"We have fulfilled the 2021 election program by two-thirds. If you can't see it with your own eyes, read the official information. We passed a law on the status of teachers; we increased the salaries of teachers by 2.5 times, medical workers by 1.5 times, culture and other budgetary spheres by 1.5 times. And where were you when the accident happened in Ekibastuz? Where were you in Kostanay? Where were you in Arysi? We did not see any of you in Maktaaral. You are just chanting empty slogans," Beisembayev responded to the PSDP representative.

"In our program we included economic and general issues in order to raise the welfare of every family in the country, to support the village and the youth. We nominated about 4,000 candidates for this election to the maslikhats of all levels, to the Mazhilis - 119 people. And if your political party is really fighting for power, why haven't you nominated a single person to the maslikhat? Why don't we know any of your candidates running for the Mazhilis? This is the problem. It is not our fault that parties like yours are going to be left out of elections again.

Berik Dyusembinov (Aq Jol) asked the PSDP representative why they went to the elections:

"You say you are the opposition. But you did not participate in the last Mazhilis elections. There was silence. Why did you wake up this time?".

Nurlan Auesbaev (PSDP):
"Frankly speaking, we never had fair elections. In 2021 we announced a boycott and did not participate, because the situation in Old Kazakhstan did not allow us to participate in elections. At that time, they wanted to infiltrate members of the so-called terrorist-extremist party into our ranks and thus wanted to provoke us. That's why we did not participate in this fake show.
Dyusembinov recalled the existence of a parliamentary opposition in the Mazhilis.

"First of all, Aq Jol party is not an opposition party," Auesbayev parried. - If I start retelling your story, you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable position. Despite the fact that our party is not in the parliament, we are taking part in the elections today after the reforms of the president. We hope for New Kazakhstan".

Azamathan Amirtai "Baitak" in his question touched on the personality of the representative of the People's Party Yermukhamet Yertysbaev:
"First of all, the leader of your party did not come today. As we understand it, he could not come because he does not know the Kazakh language.

Asylbekov Askhat (PPK):

"I will say on the case, the chairman of the People's Party is a true patriot of Kazakhstan. In such geopolitically difficult circumstances Kazakhstan maintains relations with its neighbors. Some patriots do not understand this. A true patriot keeps the country, its sovereignty. Kazakh, of course, many did not know the language since Soviet times, but now he speaks Kazakh quite well. Twice a day - morning and evening - he takes Kazakh lessons. This is true. I help him with that, too," the PPK representative replied.
Asylbekov Askhat (PPK) addressed his question to the representative of

Amanat party:
"There are 3 million poor people in Kazakhstan, 8 million people cannot cope with loans. The social policy of the government led to all this. Who implemented this policy? The ruling party. How long will you deceive the population?

Yelnur Beisenbayev (Amanat):
"First of all, there are not 3 million poor people in Kazakhstan. The number of Kazakhstanis below the poverty line is only 600,000 people. The number of citizens, who can not pay debts, is only 1.5 million. The People's Party of Kazakhstan operates only with populist slogans. Where have you been in Maktaaral, Ekibastuz, Kostanai? We should be glad that such a populist party as yours has not become the ruling party," answered the representative of Amanat.

Syrymbek Tau (Respublica) asked the Aq Jol representative to explain why the composition of the party and its leadership have not changed for many years:

"The term of office of the president is seven years, and the term of office of the head of Aq Jol already exceeds seven years."

Berik Dyusembinov (Aq Jol):
"The problem is not a change of leader, Azat Peruashev introduced 500 amendments to the bills in one year alone. Of course, the party is a living organism. But we do not recruit people to the party just to change the composition. It's not a pretty picture like you have on Instagram, but a systematic work. We initiated the individual bankruptcy law and succeeded. We proposed that the president not be chairman of the party. This is systematic work. The problem is not that the leader doesn't change. We do not need to change horses at a crossroads," answered the representative of Aq Jol.

Zhiguli Dairabayev (Auyl) asked the representative of the Respublica party whether they would later merge with Amanat, as the Adal party did earlier:
"You have no primary party organizations of the district or city level. There is no solid foundation. Do you think you will get into the Mazhilis?".

Syrymbek Tau (Respublica):
"Yes, we are a young party. We can't make false promises, we can't lie. We came from business and we want to promote our country the same way we promoted our business. To date, our co-chairmen have paid over 100 billion tenge in taxes to the State. None of us has received any tenders or funding from the state. I can say that many parties now run their propaganda on our taxes. There were questions about who used to do what. We helped during the covid, we helped without taking a penny from the state. We are new people, and we are making a new step," Syrymbek Tau answered.

Yelnur Beisenbayev (Amanat) questioned the idea of Auyl party to abolish taxes in agriculture.

"At the same time you say that you support large agricultural enterprises. Won't this lead to the emergence of new latifundists and monopolists?"

Zhiguli Dairabayev (Auyl):
"We do not have such notions - large, small or medium-sized enterprise. We put the question of agriculture as a whole. The situation is difficult. There are no roads, houses are collapsing, flooding - this is every village in Kazakhstan. I do not want to hurt anyone's honor, but over the past 30 years, 1450 Kazakh villages have been destroyed - they are not on the map. There are 6,300 auls left, and about 2,000 of them are about to be added to the list of settlements which have no future. We, Auyl party, will not allow it", - concluded Dairabayev.

No one addressed a question to the representative of the Baitak party in this round.

In the third round, participants of the debate answered the question of the presenter Armangul Toktamurat. She asked to name three problems, which political parties would solve first, if they get to the Mazhilis.

Yelnur Beisenbayev (Amanat):

1."Let's create a society equal for all. We will establish the rule of law. We give our word that no one will be categorized by nationality, gender, or social status. Law and order will dominate the country."

2."We will revive the village. We plan to implement 100 investment projects in the agricultural sector. We plan to provide up to 10 million tenge for each young specialist who goes to the countryside. In the framework of Zher Amanat, this year we will be able to return another 5 million hectares of land to the people.

3."Let's create a society with shared values. We believe that the spiritual unity of the nation is the Kazakh language. We believe that it is mandatory for every Kazakhstani citizen to learn the Kazakh language. Every civil servant must be able to speak Kazakh. We glorify the traditions that unite the nation".

Zhiguli Dairabayev (Auyl):
1."To improve the infrastructure of the village. First of all, it is necessary to build good roads, install water and gas supply in the villages, install the Internet. Bring back young people to the villages.
2."Adopt a law on food safety. The issue of food security of the State is in the first place. Once in the Mazhilis, we will set up an initiative group to pass this law.
3."To return stability to agriculture. There have been 19 new ministers. What kind of stability will we have? Wrong programmes were adopted and plans were not fulfilled. No one has been held accountable for anything. That's why the villages are in such a situation".

Syrymbek Tau (Respublica):
1."Support educated young people. Create conditions for teachers in villages. To open universities in other cities. There are 216,000 students in Almaty. Our proposal is to open more universities in Semey, Petropavlovsk, Pavlodar.
2."There is a shortage of qualified specialists. My friends, being qualified specialists, work abroad, not getting a decent salary here. It is a pity. We need to create the right conditions for them.
3."We must pay decent wages to people. If the man of labor is not valued, there will be no medium-sized businesses."

Askhat Asylbekov (PPK): Let's form a powerful middle class
1."Adoption of a new Labor Code that protects the rights of workers in the social sphere. We want to bring the minimum wage to 140 thousand tenge. We demand that workers engaged in heavy, harmful and hazardous work retire at the age of 50 and 55. Medicine and education should be free of charge. The allowance for each child should be 70 thousand tenge. We demand that the collection business be banned.
2."We suggest that every citizen should be given a plot of land. In rural areas, land should be given only to those who work there. We demand the confiscation of the property of oligarchs and the return of illegally privatized enterprises to the state.
3."Improvement of youth policy. Adopt a state housing program for young people. Students must be paid a stipend of 70 thousand tenge.

Azamathan Amirtaev (Baitak):

1."Prosecute the enterprises and officials who polluted the environment. Revise the Environmental Code. Today the Eco-Code, created by the same oligarchs and officials, has been taken over by the parties holding parliamentary seats. They have adopted it."
2."Let's recreate environmental science. For thirty years in Kazakhstan it was destroyed. Our party started to open centers for development of ecological science".
3."Social inequality. We have to support vulnerable citizens".

Berik Dyusembinov (Aq Jol):
1."Strengthen parliament's authority to approve and control the state budget. A large part of public finance is distributed without the participation of parliament.
2."The winning party should form the government. For thirty years no one is responsible for government failures. The government must report to parliament."
3."Judiciary. Hundreds of people dissatisfied with the decisions of the courts come out to rally in front of the Mazhilis."

Nurlan Auezbaev (PSDP):
1."Introduction of quality-of-life standards for the people of Kazakhstan. Even the poorest citizens should be provided with medicines, recreation.
2."Get rid of the oligarchic system."
3."Kazakhstan has all the wealth, but the population is poor. Why? Because there is no control. All the wealth is taken out of the country. All this should be returned to the state."
In the fourth round each participant was given one minute, during which each of them tried to convince the voters to vote for their party.
During the televised debates, viewers could vote for the contestant they found most convincing. According to the Public Opinion Research Institute, 72% of viewers chose an Amanat representative. Less than 1% of those who voted said they did not like any of the debaters.
Almost 70% of viewers found the debates "very interesting," and slightly more than 6% found them "not interesting at all.