Kazakh Political Party Stops Accepting New Members After Opposition Figure's Call To Support It


NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhstan's Aq Zhol (Bright Path) political party has suspended accepting new members after exiled opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov called on his supporters to vote for the party in upcoming parliamentary elections in order to weaken the ruling Nur Otan party.

Aq Zhol member and lawmaker Berik Duisenbinov told RFE/RL on December 2 that the party decided to temporarily stop accepting new members to prevent rumors that the party had enlarged its ranks thanks to Ablyazov.

Party Chairman Azat Peruashev refused to comment on the party's decision when contacted by RFE/RL.

A day earlier, Ablyazov said in a Facebook video statement that his supporters and activists from his Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement should support Aq Zhol in the January 10 elections to make sure that Nur Otan gets fewer votes than other political parties.

Since the DVK is not a registered party and not represented in the balloting, many of its supporters weren't expected to vote, leaving an opening for election officials to steal the votes for Nur Otan, Ablyazov alleged.

"The move will also force election officials to increase their efforts to rig the elections, which will make it easier for us to expose the violations to justify our refusal to accept such results," Ablyazov said, stressing that the situation will spark mass protests across the country.

Last week, days after Ablyazov called on his supporters to vote for another party -- the All-National Social Democratic Party (OSDP), the only political group that openly positions itself as an opposition party -- that group's leadership announced a boycott of the poll.

OSDP leader Askhat Rakhimzhanov said that his party decided on November 27 not to participate in the elections because Kazakhstan's political landscape continues to be dominated by the “same” political elite.

Ablyazov, who resides in France, accused the OSDP of following orders from authorities, "who are scared that many in Kazakhstan would follow" Ablyazov's call and "expose falsifications during the elections."

The OSDP has not commented publicly on the accusation.

Since OSDP decided to boycott the poll, five political parties will take part in the elections. The parties include the ruling Nur Otan, as well as Aq Zhol, Auyl, Birlik, and the Communist People's Party.

Nur Otan said on December 2 that it had expelled Nurzhan Altaev from its ranks and deprived him of a lawmaker’s mandate for his decision to create a new political party.

Pavel Kazantsev, the chief of Nur Otan's committee for party control, said that Altaev was expelled for being in "violation of the party charter and its ethics code," as well as for "damaging the party's authority."

Altaev said on November 27 that no real opposition political forces are represented in the current parliament to voice alternative opinions and announced that he will establish a new political party called El Tiregi (People’s Pillar).

The polls will be the first parliamentary elections since President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev succeeded Nursultan Nazarbaev, who resigned in March 2019 after nearly three decades in power.

Nazarbaev still maintains key positions of power, including head of the country’s powerful Security Council and the ruling Nur Otan party. He also enjoys almost limitless powers and immunity as "elbasy" -- leader of the nation.

The 107-seat Majlis is currently dominated by Nazarbaev’s Nur Otan, which has 84 deputies.

The Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan and the Aq Zhol party each have seven seats.

The remaining nine seats are appointed by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body controlled by Nazarbaev.

The last parliamentary elections were held in March 2016.