Many in Kazakhstan are not even sure what parties are contesting the March 20 parliamentary elections, other than President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s ruling Nur Otan. A flat and barely visible campaign season has done little to raise awareness or enthusiasm for a vote whose outcome — the renewal of Nur Otan’s ostensibly democratic mandate — is a given. Not that there is any shortage of things for politicians to talk and complain about. The government has not succeeded in reducing the economy’s reliance on the export of raw natural resources, nor has it been able to curb rampant corruption, which stifles individual enterprise. Accordingly, Kazakhstan has been laid low by the slump in oil prices, which has led to job losses, hit living standards and sent the currency plunging and inflation rocketing.
With no credible or combative opposition parties standing, Nur Otan, whose name bears echoes of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s name, but means Light Fatherland, is guaranteed a landslide victory.
Polls of the electorate around Kazakhstan reveal that a majority intend to cast their ballots for Nur Otan, despite having scant awareness of its manifesto and even less knowledge about the five other parties running for seats in the Mazhilis (lower house).