They Promise Mountains of Gold – a Political Scientist on Election Campaigning

February 24, 2023

Political scientist Zamir Karazhanov discussed how Kazakhstan's electoral system evolved and what problems exist in the law on elections.

In the history of the electoral system's development in Kazakhstan, some experiments were made all too often, he said.

The political scientist highlighted "The single-mandate districts were initially used due to a lack of strong party organizations. The limited options available to voters necessitated the use of this system. Then we started to introduce a party system in the hope that there would be professional parties that would solve the problems of the population and engage in politics. Now we are back to these single-mandate districts again. We are in the throes of a walk in the dark. Because we cannot achieve the most important thing, which is the emergence of a professional Parliament, parties that are capable and effective."

According to him, the introduction of elections in single-member districts was explained by the fact that the deputies elected this way are more tied to the population, better know their needs, and the population itself is in more contact with them.

"But the same explanations were given about the party lists, that there is collective responsibility, that everything will change for the better. But as we can see, nothing really changes; all that happens is that people trample on the spot," Karazhanov said.

The electoral system has a fundamental problem that hinges on electoral legislation, he said.

"This law should ensure political competition, vigorous discussion and debate, and the selection of the most worthy candidates for the Mazhilis through elections. It should also ensure the implementation of any representative functions, to represent the interests of the population who elects. There are a lot of questions, but the most important one concerns the Law on Elections. Pay attention, only one month is given even for campaigning. What will a candidate have time to do during this time? He will not have enough time to do anything; here unequal conditions are laid down. Why? Because we hear about one party throughout the year, while we hear nothing about other organisations. Injustice is being created here," he says.

In addition, the political analyst believes that the law does not help increase competition.

"There is a provision in the law where you cannot criticise your opponents. The essence of the campaign is that a candidate or a party has to present its programme, explain what its advantages are. The candidate himself popularizes himself among the masses, but this is not quite right. Because the point is to have a discussion. There needs to be an element of opposition. Otherwise, we get a programme where they promise mountains of gold. At the same time, there is no criticism, and we can promise anything, but it is already populism," concluded Zamir Karazhanov.