The Shine and Poverty of Political Technology

March 22, 2023

Elections 2023: In 2023, we saw a real parliamentary campaign with fierce competition, mutual accusations of candidates, a real fight for the votes.

Emotions sometimes ran high, just like at a soccer game. It was not without scandals, dirt, lawsuits, and other attributes of electoral democracies.

As a result, it turned out that in spite of emotions, the most technologically advanced and calculating ones emerged as the winners. In the rage of democratic passions rationalism wins.

In the age of information technology it seems so easy to influence the minds of voters; political strategists have at their disposal the newest ways of promoting ideas to the masses, developed algorithms and well thought-out strategies. The most mass and easy tool is social networks. Were the Kazakhstani parties able to use it; were they able to adapt their programs and election campaigning to the current requirements? Or maybe it was not necessary?

If we analyze the way how parties were preparing to elections, it is possible to trace the susceptibility of Kazakhstani people to influence. And maybe even how gullible they are.

What did seven Kazakhstani political parties which were competing for the seats in the parliament manage to offer?

First of all, influential ones. They are experienced party organizations with wide network of representative offices around the country. Thus, by calculations of political scientist Aidos Sarym, a serious party has at least one person in each of 200 regions of Kazakhstan. In large cities, several dozens of staff members. Such a party holds political events, rallies, has websites, launches leaflets, and is engaged in charity.

The Auyl party has such a large representation in the regions and maslikhats. And this helped it to break through to the leaders, even in spite of the rather poorly presented agitation campaign on the Internet. Most likely, the key to their success is direct communication with the electorate on the spot.
The PPK party was able to gather forces after long inner-party struggle, which started after Ermukhamet Yertysbaev became its leader. Then heavyweights such as former deputies of Mazhilis Erlan Smailov and Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, party members Gaziz Kulakhmetov and Kulyara Manenova left the party. Last year Aibek Payayev gave up his deputy mandate. According to Sailau 2023, the PPK had the second highest number of mentions in social networks since the start of the campaign and managed to win enough votes to make it into parliament. Could the People's Party surpass the Respublica and compete with them for votes in their field? As we can see, no.

Respublica successfully played the "digital" card in a large deck of different political technologies at the expense of its membership in the bloggers' party. The young party enthusiastically used all of its accounts for the online campaign and, according to the ODIHR Election Observation Mission, became one of the leaders in terms of frequency of publications and engagement. That helped the young party make it to the top of the election race. "In essence, leaders of the Respublica went for a reputational va-banque," economist Olzhas Hudaibergenov wrote on his Facebook page, calling their campaign "a hangout with young people who will essentially determine policy for the next 20-30 years."

The NSDP surprisingly made a definite breakthrough in the elections. The campaign was weak. The party did not use any innovations and unexpected techniques. However, maybe this newly obtained credit of trust is a kind of deferred waiting? In any case, the opposition party will have to prove its worth.

Aq Jol. It has been in parliament since 2012, has its own solidified electorate and looks more professional in comparison with newcomers at the expense of more experience. Campaigning is also traditional, it proved that it has a chance to reboot, despite the fails of leaders and party members. It is possible to say that the Aq Jol members entered the parliament by inertia, on the old fuel.

There was the impression that in these elections Baitak wanted simply to assert himself. Perhaps, the lack of resources had an impact. In addition, almost every party has a "green point" in its program. But the points of the other parties in the program of the Baitak did not impress anyone.

"In the proportional race, all political parties campaigned throughout the country; however, the campaign and campaign messages seemed more dynamic and open in the majoritarian race and in large cities. The campaign was busiest on social media, in part because a number of prominent activists, bloggers, journalists and other Influencers ran for office, but also because of the less money required for an online campaign compared to the cost of traditional campaigning. Nevertheless, voter interest in the parliamentary race remained low," the OSCE International Election Observation Mission wrote in its report.

What about Amanat? The election results show that Amanat was able to consolidate and use the capabilities of its cells and the authority of its prominent members to win a significant majority. The party used its power as wisely as possible. And a political organization with a long history of success is a formidable one. And although their Internet campaign was also the most visible, direct contact with voters on the ground was decisive for their victory. Amanatovs used with pleasure the traditional methods of struggle for the voters, live meetings with the teachers and miners, labor collectives and workers of art; their target audience was all the citizens of Kazakhstan. The leader of the party Erlan Koshanov worthily showed himself at all TV debates. And the people of Kazakhstan voted for them. They saw these people, they heard them; they know whom to ask. Unlike those, who promised a lot in tick-tock, addressing to everybody in general, and to nobody in the end.

Source: Zhan Daradi
NIKA Group Perspective Research Center