Voters go to the polls in the new elections after the riots that rocked Kazakhstan

Although the electoral field was unusually large with two newly registered parties and hundreds of individual candidates joining the race, turnout seemed relatively lukewarm: Some 54% of eligible voters cast ballots, according to the national electoral commission.

The snap elections came on the fourth anniversary of the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and who had established immense influence.

His successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was widely expected to continue Nazarbayev’s authoritarian course and even renamed the capital Nur-Sultan after his predecessor.

Kazakhstan Election
Former Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev casts his ballot at a polling station in Astana (AP Photo/Ilyas Omarov)

But the country’s political landscape changed markedly after a wave of violence in January 2022, when provincial protests initially sparked by a fuel price hike engulfed other cities, notably the commercial capital Almaty, and turned openly. policies when protesters chanted “Old man out” in reference to Mr. Nazarbayev, who is now 82 years old.

More than 220 people, mostly protesters, were killed when police cracked down heavily on the riots.

Amid the violence, Tokayev removed Nazarbayev from his powerful position as head of the national security council.

He restored the capital’s previous name, Astana, and parliament struck down a law granting Nazarbayev and his family immunity from prosecution.

Tokayev also initiated reforms to strengthen parliament, reduce presidential powers, and limit the presidency to a single seven-year term.

Under the reforms, a third of the 98 seats in the lower house of parliament will be chosen in single-term elections instead of by party list.

The ruling Amanat party holds the overwhelming majority of the seats in the current parliament with the remainder belonging to parties largely loyal to Amanat.

Although opinion polls indicate that Amanat will remain the largest party in the new parliament, the likely bottom line is unclear.

More than 400 candidates, most of them self-nominated, competed in the single-mandate races, and the national electoral commission authorized two additional parties to participate in the proportional contest.

“We can only hope that these elections will contribute to a further consolidation of society, of democracy, and that the idea of ​​a new and fair Kazakhstan will develop with the population actually participating in this,” Austrian Martin Sajdik, member of the Organization . for Security and Cooperation in Europe the electoral observation mission, he said on Sunday.


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