Candidate of Political Sciences
Member of the Young Experts Platform
at the Public Academy of Political Science (PAPS),
The reforms and constitutional changes were initiated by President Tokayev under difficult conditions. It was not a reform ‘from above’, but as a response to the population's demand for democratization.
Current parliamentary elections - it is a restoration of the previously used majoritarian system, abolished about 20 years ago.
Elections 2023 complete the initial stage of the Great Electoral Cycle, which includes a Referendum on the Constitution (2022), Presidential elections (2022), elections to the Senate (2023), elections to the Mazhilis and Maslikhats (2023). As a result of such electoral marathon the power gets the whole package of electoral support up to 2028.
Elections of March 19, 2023 also complete the construction of the foundation of the Second Republic in accordance with the constitutional referendum and the results of the presidential election. The special transitional period, or transit of power will come to an end. A new political time will begin - practical construction on the presidential platform of the Second Republic and Fair Kazakhstan.
There is a hope that the reforms will not stop and continue further course of transformation in Kazakhstan. President Tokayev's initiatives cannot start and end only with reforms, elections, changes in the Constitution of 2022.
The changes must be continued, and they will show the realization of the hopes of the population, activists, and public organizations for the transformation of the political system.
Political reforms can be effective and efficient only in the presence of the whole complex, as economic, social changes and transformation as a whole. Obviously, the next stage of the Great Electoral Process should include the election of akims of oblasts and cities, as an integral attribute of political transformation and democratization.
Unfortunately, the results of the pre-election campaign, the elections themselves show the presence of many problems faced by the authorities, the opposition, and the population.
The quality of the pre-election campaign, the policy of registration of opposition parties, the party elections of 2023 do not allow us to speak about the full guarantee of high results of the ongoing reforms aimed at strengthening competition in the political system, the legitimacy of the results. Without improving the quality of the parties themselves, candidates for deputies, increasing the activity and responsibility of law enforcement agencies, the current problems and shortcomings will also affect the next stages of the effective transformation of Kazakhstan.
The activity of fake parties, the past tradition of the lack of activity of law enforcement agencies to investigate examples of offenses during the elections showed the unpreparedness of the authorities for serious and irrevocable changes in the political system and the separation of power with representatives of the public, the opposition.
The elections are the first step of transformation in Kazakhstan after a long period of authoritarian regime. One cannot expect the elections to produce breakthrough results and rapid changes in the political system.
However, despite the shortcomings, the current parliamentary elections of 2023 are different in many ways:
- The constitutional reform of the neutral, non-partisan status of the president, oblast and city akims influenced the activity, activity of the pro-government parties. This had a positive impact on the development of competition between the parties.
- The majoritarian system was restored. It became again possible to elect specific deputies, assessing their personal qualities, program, promises and previous services to the country;
- the emergence of fake parties, overt leaders, organizations representing specific financial and industrial economic forces that had previously hidden their political interests and resources and had only a lobby in the government;
- the enormous influence of social networks and the Internet on the electoral process and competition. Young people are following party programs, slogans more and more closely;
- emergence of an external irritant in the form of activists who are directly ready to defend and represent the interests of neighboring states. Elections in Kazakhstan are no longer a matter of internal, purely local organizations, elites and experts. Low quality of parties and propaganda can lead to irreparable results of informational, political independence during the next elections or political processes in the north and east of Kazakhstan.
In my opinion, the emergence of new non-partisan deputies will affect the growth of political competition and increase the conflict of political interests between the elites and influential groups in Kazakhstan. The traditional practice of lack of political discussion and public debate in Maslikhats will have to change. There will be two variants of events: forced acceptance of conditions of new deputies to develop transparency or a return to administrative decision-making in Maslikhats.
In fact, many opposition organizations, personalities, activists believed in the possibility of fair, open competition and participate in the election campaign. However, other organizations, personalities representing the interests of the former government, the formerly influential leaders, also take part in the campaign.
Maslikhat deputies can be strong, independent and influential only with the support of party organization and public support. Also, lack of economic independence of regions and oblasts will limit political independence and resources of maslikhats. Special changes in the current environment are not expected.
As a result of introduction of majority system, activity of some public figures, opposition, the electoral culture of the population is really increasing.
This period will go down in history as the period of great hopes.
The role of the Parliament in the Second Republic must change. In the conditions of a sharp growth of post-authoritarian civil activity the renewed Mazhilis should become a representative of different public interests for the period of implementation of presidential reforms.
The new parliamentary representation will allow shifting the front of civil activity (and above all, protest) into the mainstream of parliamentary work and parliamentary discussions.
The new Mazhilis should become a motor of reforms, and its representation should reflect a greater range of public interests in order to make reforms irreversible and ensure stability. This is important because Kazakhstani society has changed radically, new mass demands and new interest groups have appeared.
The past traditions of parliament not being a reflection of society, and the deputies representing only themselves, without connection or support from groups of the population, should be stopped. In the modern age of social networks, computer technologies, and openness of public relations, especially among the youth, it is unacceptable to have a parliament which lives apart from society and public problems.
Construction of the New Kazakhstan and the Second Republic requires continuation of the initiated changes in the political system, without which these slogans and goals can remain again only a temporary part, not a stage of development and modernization of Kazakhstan.
Source: NIKA Group Perspective Research Center