On 10 February 2023 in Almaty at the platform “KazISS GPS: Gylym. Pikir. Sayasat” the expert community discussed the main advantages and opportunities of a mixed electoral system. Well-known political scientists, representatives of higher educational institutions, academic circles of Kazakhstan, and experts of the National Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic shared their expert opinions on the practical application and implementation of a mixed electoral system.
According to Yerkin Tukumov, director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of Kazakhstan, the upcoming elections to the Majilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan and Maslikhats are the main political and mass media agenda over the next few months.
The mixed electoral system is one of the reasons for such close attention. 70% of Majilis deputies will be elected by the proportional system based on party lists and 30% by the majoritarian system. Deputies of regional maslikhats and maslikhats of cities of state importance will be formed based on 50% to 50% ratio. The district maslikhats will be elected entirely by the majoritarian system.
On the one hand, this innovation for Kazakhstan’s practice is not completely new. In 1999 and 2004 the elections were conducted by a mixed system as well. However, more than 15 years have passed and an entire generation grew up in Kazakhstan, unaware of the specifics and procedure of “hybrid” elections. Therefore, one of the tasks of the expert community is to explain the essential features of the mixed electoral system and voting procedures.
“The mixed electoral system is quite common. Nowadays this system is used for electing the state legislative branches in Japan, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Korea, Italy, Mexico, and other countries. Among the closest neighbors, a similar system is implemented in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Lithuania. Each of these countries, certainly, has its own characteristics, distinctive features,” said Y. Tukumov, and offered to discuss various aspects of elections based on the mixed electoral system at the meeting of the national expert platform “KazISS GPS”(КИСИ GPS).
Kanatbek Aziz, director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS) under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, mentioned that today’s topic is especially relevant for both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“ Certain aspects have occurred from the results of the elections. This primarily applies to the implementation of the status of a deputy, since the deputies elected by a political party and those elected in single-mandate districts have a different legislative nature. I would like to emphasize that the October events of 2020 had a full influence on the changes to the electoral system and the formation of the deputy members in our country. Following this, a constitutional reform was also undertaken, where the members of the constitutional council proposed to elect the deputy members by mixed system, based on both the majoritarian and proportional systems. It was a certain kick-start for analysts and experts. I think it was very interesting to return back to the majoritarian system in this way, because we all have already experienced it in the post-Soviet area,” Mr. Aziz shared.
Sheradil Baktygulov, a researcher at the NISS under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, highlighted that the upcoming parliamentary elections reflect the renewal of Kazakhstan’s political system. “First of all, I would like to highlight that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan in my opinion represent continuing reforms declared by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, which indicates a renewal of the political system in Kazakhstan. As for elections, I want to mention that there is no ideal election system in the world, so the practices that we have are mutually enriching, and therefore I am grateful to the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies for creating this platform where we can exchange the experience that we have, “- said the expert.
According to Aydar Amrebayev, single-mandated districts provide an opportunity to get a look at alternative views. “”We are currently inquiring about how to create an effective Parliament that can represent all views and can properly perform its legislative function. Single-mandated districts provide an opportunity to represent alternative views,” the speaker said.
Gulnar Nassimova, head of the Chair of Political Science and Political Technologies at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, thinks that parties and candidates need to meet with young people more often. “Young voters are now thoughtful; youth are capable of analyzing an electoral program. Parties and candidates need to talk to all youth and not just youth activists. Modern youth, especially students, are well-educated enough to distinguish between manipulation and fakes. We need to meet with young people, talk to them in order to understand their motivation,” Nasimova expressed her opinion.
Olga Simakova, project coordinator Public Fund “Center for Social and Political Studies ‘Strategy’”:
“People are currently unfamiliar with the candidates and their programs. I think that we need to educate voters in a new way”.
Experts gave a positive evaluation of the reform of the electoral system in Kazakhstan at the end of the discussion. The participants of the discussion highlighted the high potential for ensuring the pluralism of opinions in the new calling of Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to the experts, the return of the majoritarian component to the electoral system will expand the field of public politics. Also, the participants of the event agreed that the upcoming elections and the subsequent operation of the political system need high-quality expertise and analytical support.