Kazakhstan's Opposition Says January Vote Should Be Postponed Due To Flawed Election Laws

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's opposition movement, Halyq Biligi (People's Rule), has demanded that parliamentary elections scheduled for next month be postponed, citing election legislation that cuts out alternative political forces.

"The current laws on elections and political parties have been made to protect power-holders and any elections based on such laws cannot express people's interests and therefore they are illegal," well-known opposition figure Rysbek Sarsenbaiuly told a news conference on December 22 that was attended by the movement's leaders and activists

The movement's representatives said that if the laws aren't changed, Kazakh voters should boycott the January 10 elections to invalidate them.

Civil right activists and opposition politicians have accused Kazakh authorities of intentionally refusing to officially register opposition political groups in recent months, calling it a government ploy to prevent opposition parties from participating in the elections for parliament's lower chamber, Mazhilis.

The election campaign with five parties -- none of which is running on an opposition platform -- kicked off on December 10.

The vote will decide 98 of 107 seats in the Mazhilis. Nine other seats will be separately elected by the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan -- a political body representing dozens of ethnic groups in the Central Asian nation.

The only officially registered political party that labels itself as an opposition group, the All-National Social Democratic Party (OSDP), is boycotting the elections.

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.

Since 2019, several other political groups and parties have tried to register in order to be eligible to take part in the poll, but Kazakh authorities have rejected all of their applications.

The January 10 polls will be the first parliamentary elections since Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev succeeded Nursultan Nazarbaev, who resigned in March last year after nearly three decades in power.

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

The last parliamentary elections were held in March 2016.

International election observers say that past elections in Kazakhstan have been neither free nor fair, citing electoral fraud, repression of opposition candidates, and restrictions on the freedom of the press.