On 26 January 2023, the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan held the first of this year national expert platform “KazISS GPS: Gylym. Pikir. Sayasat”. The session “Parliamentary Elections-2023: Reformatting the Political System” included a discussion of parliamentary elections and elections to the maslikhats, which are planned for 19 March 2023.
These elections introduce mixed electoral system as a distinctive feature: deputies can be elected by party lists and by single-member districts. The results of the elections will lead to the renewal of the country’s key political institutions in accordance with the amendments to the Constitution.
Leading national experts shared their expectations of the upcoming elections during the meeting. According to Yerkin Tukumov, Director of KazISS, “The President emphasized that these elections will consolidate stable political values of participation in our society. Thereby the electoral culture of the population will change qualitatively. As the President said, we are all different, but we are united by common values.”
Yerkin Tukumov also emphasized that “the elections of deputies under new rules will actually reset the entire political system. In particular, the elections will be conducted under the mixed electoral system. Political parties will have more opportunities to obtain parliamentary status due to reducing the threshold for entering the Majilis from 7 to 5%. Meanwhile, number of deputy seats in Mazhilis decreases from 107 to 98 deputies.
“We can expect that the Parliament will indeed become a representative authority, where important issues for society will be raised. I hope that we will see a completely different Parliament after the elections: more active, more initiative. A parliament which is based on active discussions and debates. As Churchill said: ” It is better to have fights and battles in parliament than on the streets”. Such a parliament will provide an environment for enhancing its role and importance as the key branch of power.
Mansurkhan Makhambetov, Director of the Institute of Parliamentarism: «In all areas, from economics to politics, we depend on stability and harmony in society. These are possible through the constructive expression of the will of the people in elections. The upcoming elections can contribute to the development of parliamentarism in Kazakhstan. Parliamentarianism can create a system where the interests of the people and the state will be united».
Talgat Kaliyev, Director of Institute of Applied Ethnopolitical Research: “Such a high level of attention and competition will encourage voters to be active. Various forces, ideas, and opinions will be introduced. The populism is inevitable, but we should not dread it. It is a specific type of political struggle. On the other hand, critically-minded candidates would contribute more to improve the work of the Majilis. In addition, the deputy mandate implies a certain level of responsibility. Single-mandate candidates will revive the lower chamber of the Parliament, leading to the transformation of parties. There is high demand for rapid formation of position, effective work with the press and following the principle of the golden hour. The competition in the Parliament will transform it over the real politics.”
Anas Bakkozhayev, the deputy chairman of the “Auyl” party: “We have implemented various electoral systems since we first became independent. A strictly majoritarian system had its disadvantages. Mostly because of the absence of a centralized administration.”
Therefore, a mixed system provides an effective way of organizing elections that can overcome these drawbacks.
I fully support what the President said today in the Senate: “Opinions must be different, interests must be common.”
If the parliamentary elections are held at the proper level and honorable citizens are elected as deputies, our country will be prosperous and happy. Yet we need unity to achieve this.”
Chingiz Lepsibaev, Secretary of the “BAYTAK” party: “We can identify three important emphases in the upcoming elections. First, political competition is returning. That is associated with the introduction of a mixed electoral system and the participation of single-mandate candidates. Therefore, we are expecting tough competitive elections, particularly at the seats. Second, a demand for justice exists that was already revealed during the January events. Considering this demand of the society, we will not encounter these events again with the new Parliament. Third, populism from the candidates will also accompany the elections. This will be a result of political competition.”
Nurbek Matzhani, Chairman of the Board of the Kazakhstan Institute of Social Development: “I expect from the elections that people’s trust in the electoral process will be restored, from nominating candidates to counting the votes. Major changes are impossible without trust. Parliamentary elections give citizens an opportunity to actively participate in the political life of the country. Elections also create a political culture and promote competition between parties. Populism is not only characteristic of Kazakhstan; it is a global trend that will bring innovation to the political life of our country. Moreover, in five years, during the next parliamentary elections, we will definitely know who among the deputies confines themselves to words and loud slogans. In general, parliamentary elections’ role are significant for the life of the country, it is necessary for everyone to take part in it. The success of political processes depends on it.”
Assol Mirmanova, political scientist, the member of the European Association of Political Consultants: “When we talk about changes of life in the regions, it is clearly that voters’ interests will be protected more actively. Therefore, I hope that not only the majoritarian, but also the parties in their program will go over the risks and issues of the regions.”
Mukhtar Kulzhan, political scientist, the member of the Presidential Youth Personnel Reserve: “I would like to focus on several trends. Firstly, as a result of the new procedure for party registration, the party field has become more active. We can already observe a particular contest. Secondly, responsiveness has strengthened as a political system is able to reflect the interests of the population in its interests. Thirdly, integration of single-mandate candidates into the electoral contest shows that future parliaments and maslikhats are getting closer to their voters.”
Yermek Toktarov, Head of Political Researches Department of KazISS under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan: “The upcoming elections are important in terms of setting a new format of public policy. In Majilis only 29 deputies will be elected in single-mandate electoral districts, which is 30% of the total number of deputies of the lower chamber. 3,749 deputies will be at the local level, in the maslikhats, throughout the country. Only 334 of them will be elected from political parties to maslikhats of regions and cities of Astana, Almaty and Shymkent. The remaining 3,415 deputies will be elected under single-mandate districts at all levels – region, city, and district. Certainly, the status of deputies of Mazhilis and Maslikhat are different, but the responsibility is not any smaller. If the political parties currently play an important role in shaping political practice and culture on the local level, then it is possible that majoritarian deputies will share these responsibilities in the near future. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to the human capital of local politicians. This is, to some extent, the new format and reform message of the upcoming elections.”