Dominant party wins most votes in Kazakh parliament election

March 20, 2023 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) — Kazakhstan’s dominant political party received slightly more than half the vote in the election for the lower house of parliament, according to preliminary results announced Monday, but the final tally of seats won’t be clear until new single-mandate races are tallied.

As part of a series of political reforms in the Central Asian nation, one-third of the seats chosen in the snap election were contested by individual candidates; previously, all seats were selected by party list.

The national elections commission said the Amanat party of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev received 53.9% of the vote on Sunday; five other parties cleared the 5% barrier needed to obtain seats, including parties loyal to Tokayev.

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

His successor Tokayev was widely expected to continue Nazarbayev’s authoritarian course and even renamed the capital as Nur-Sultan in his predecessor’s honor.

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 became overtly political as demonstrators shouted “Old man out!” in reference to the now 82-year-old Nazarbayev.

More than 220 people, mostly protesters, died as police harshly put down the unrest. Amid the violence, Tokayev removed Nazarbayev from his powerful post as head of the national security council. He restored the capital’s previous name of Astana, and the parliament repealed a law granting Nazarbayev and his family immunity from prosecution.

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