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.
On March 20, Kazakhstan will hold snap parliamentary elections. While the OSCE election monitoring mission’s preliminary report notes several systemic problems, comments from the CIS observers mission present a different picture, one without significant flaws. As with previous elections in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia, two narratives will predictably emerge. One will cast Kazakhstan as a young democracy: ”Look, elections!” believers will say; and the other narrative will pursue a more critical line. In the election’s mercifully brief campaign, most of the parties are toting the ruling party’s line. Although new energy is promised, the likely outcome will be more of the same faces and more of the same policies.
Kazakhstan: Snap poll called as President Nursultan Nazarbayev bids to extend his 27-year rule | The Independent
In an attempt to cling on to power amid discontent at falling oil prices in the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called a snap election. Mr Nazarbayev, whose rule has been marked by allegations of human rights abuses and corruption, dissolved the lower house of parliament, urging the nation to consolidate at a time of economic hardship caused by the crash in oil prices. The election, originally expected at the end of this year or early 2017, will be held on 20 March. Political analysts say the early poll will allow the veteran leader to reaffirm his grip on power before discontent over a slowing economy reaches a peak.
North Korea: In a world of absurd election results, North Korea is in good company | The Washington Post
Local elections in North Korea over the weekend went just about as expected. State-run Korean Central News Agency reported that 99.97 percent of voters participated in Sunday’s ballot, which is held every few years and essentially involves predetermined candidates who are rubber-stamped into office. Any lingering curiosity about the remaining .03 percent quickly evaporates, as the agency acknowledged that they were “on foreign tour or working in oceans” at the time. If that feels, well, unbelievable, in a world of strongmen and staged elections, think back to these past examples. (Yes, North Korea makes an appearance.)
Kazakhstan’s long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev apologized on Monday for winning re-election with 97.7 percent of the vote, saying it would have “looked undemocratic” for him to intervene to make his victory more modest. Sunday’s election gives another five year term to the 74-year-old former steelworker, who has ruled the oil-producing nation since rising to the post of its Soviet-era Communist Party boss in 1989. Central Election Commission data showed turnout was 95.22 percent. Television showed a triumphant Nazarbayev walking on a red carpet, smiling and shaking hands and greeting thousands of jubilant supporters at what officials called “The Victors’ Forum” held in a spacious stadium in the capital Astana. “Kazakhstan has shown its political culture to the entire world,” he told his supporters.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the former Soviet Union’s second-biggest energy producer for more than a quarter century, won a fifth term by a landslide, an exit poll showed. The president got 97.5 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to a survey by the Institute of Democracy broadcast by the state-owned 24.kz TV channel. One of the two challengers was a senior member of his Nur Otan party and the other praised the president’s achievements during a campaign that international observers dubbed “practically unnoticeable.” Official results will be announced Monday.
For a country less than a week away from a presidential election, it’s awfully quiet in Kazakhstan. According to current President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan is a “paradise,” but Central Asia watchers are skeptical about the lack of competition and lack of policy debate. “There is not much currently being said about the election in Kazakhstan, mostly because there is nothing to say,” Luca Anceschi, a lecturer in Central Asian Studies at the University of Glasgow told The Diplomat. The early election, scheduled for April 26, didn’t come as a surprise. Nazarbayev also arranged early polls in 2011, 2005, and in 1999 (even though a 1995 referendum, shortly before scheduled elections in 1996, extended Nazarbayev’s term as president to 2000). Despite coy statements made in March that “[m]aybe it’s time for a change of scenery,” Nazarbayev chose to stand for election, again.
Kazakhstan’s decision to hold early presidential elections in April, a year ahead of time, comes at a time of turmoil for the country. Generally considered a success story of the post-Soviet space, Kazakhstan faces a number of simultaneous storms, ranging from the declining oil price and fallout of sanctions on Russia to the general geopolitical instability resulting from the Russian-Ukraine war and uncertainty concerning Afghanistan’s future. Against this background, the decision to hold the election a year ahead of time raises the question whether Kazakhstan’s prized stability is in question. Any decision to hold early elections could seem to provide the incumbent with an added advantage and leave potential challengers scrambling to mobilize for an election they did not expect. Incumbency provides an important advantage in any country, and clearly, an incumbent president is at an advantageous position in planning for an election only two months away. This is no doubt the reason why incumbents in many countries have made the practice commonplace. In Israel, early elections were held in 2012 and another is scheduled for 2015. The United Kingdom, of course, has institutionalized the practice, and there, a Prime Minister is expected to call elections at the time that is most suitable for his party.
Kazakhstan is gearing up for presidential elections again, and in anticipation of this April 26 event, incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has accepted the nomination to contest from the nation’s ruling Nur Otan Party. Cutting across party lines, politicians and academicians have unanimously described him as a worthy candidate for the post, and in the last week, when the proposal was put to a vote, it was supported by all 1200 Congress delegates, which was indicative of the huge popularity he enjoys. Accepting the proposal to contest for the post of president again, Nazarbayev said that he had only one goal in his mind, and that was to tackle all new complex tasks for the benefit of the citizens of Kazakhstan. “Building on our successes, we must move forward,” he emphasized.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev declared his intention to run in an April 26 election to extend his 25-year rule, the longest of any leader in the former Soviet Union. “All citizens should enjoy the same level of rights, carry the same burden of responsibility and have access to equal opportunities,” Nazarbayev, 74, told a meeting of his Nur Otan party in the capital Astana after announcing his candidacy in the earlier-than-scheduled poll. He held out a promise to redistribute some powers once proposed reforms are completed that would include strengthening the independence of the judiciary, creating a more “professional” bureaucracy with foreigners possibly appointed to state posts, and boosting the status and accountability of the police. The former capital Almaty could be given a special status as a financial center, he said.