Kazakhstan’s president issued a decree Wednesday to dissolve parliament and call a snap election that will end the governing party’s monopolistic grip over the legislature. Under a new election law, a minimum of two parties will enter parliament after the Jan. 15 polls, although no robust anti-government forces are believed to stand any real prospect of winning seats.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev said at a government meeting Tuesday that the election should be brought forward — it was originally scheduled for August 2012 — to avoid the campaigning season coinciding with an anticipated global economic downturn.
The authoritarian, oil-rich former Soviet nation’s parliament is currently occupied exclusively by Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party. Changes to the law approved in 2009 mean the party that wins the second largest number of votes will be allocated seats even if it fails to pass the 7 percent threshold normally needed to get into parliament.
Kazakhstan has undertaken concerted efforts to project itself as a dynamic emerging economy, but its one-party parliament has long been a source of embarrassment and the subject of international criticism. Despite the apparent efforts to broaden representation in parliament, few believe any genuine opposition parties will win seats.