Eight Parties were originally registered for the 2012 elections for the lower house Kazakhstan’s parliament (the Mazhilis). The vote combines party list and single district mandates. Most important is the ruling party, Nur Otan, which gained 88.41% of the votes in 2007 and became the only party in Parliament. However, as a sign of the ‘maturing’ nature of the Kazakhstani polity, the government stated they planned to see another party enter this time around. So who were the options and how did they perform?
The Party of Patriots (ППК) is led by Гани Касымов. Kasymov is from Atyrau, born in 1950 in Atyrau, and attended MGIMO. In 2011 he ran for President, gaining 1.94% of the vote. Overall performed very poorly.
DPK Ak Zhol (Демократическая партия Казахстана (ДПК) «Ак Жол») was founded in 2002 as part of a nascent opposition made up of reformers and (supposedly) liberal-minded businessmen. In 2005 leader Aлихан Байменов split from fellow leaders Abilov (ОСДП) and Sarsenbaev, who were more staunchly oppositional (Sarsenbaev later killed under mysterious circumstances after declaring his candidacy in 2005 for President). Baimenov was born in 1959 in Zhezkazgan and lived in Karaganda. In 2005 he ran for President and gained 1.61% of the vote. No one from this party wanted to run for President in 2011. Ak Zhol appears to have cleared the (7%) threshold for entering the new parliament. They are a pseudo-oppositional ‘business’ minded party, and a good candidate for eventual reform
Only one of the seven can be considered true opposition, the Общенациональная социал-демократическая партия (ОСДП) Азат. Azat’s leaders are Bulat Abilov and Zharmakan Tuakbai. Abilov was born in 1957 in Karaganda, attended Polytech and became an engineer. He was an advisor in the 1990’s to the President, and a MP for the presidents Otan party in 2001. He became opposition in 2001 as part of the ДВК (which became Ak Zhol in 2002) and was stripped of his seat for leaving Otan. In 2004 it was ruled he couldn’t run to become an MP because of committing a crime. in 2005 he left Ak Zhol with the rest of Azat (OSDP). Tuakbai is older, born in 1947 in Shymkent. He studied law at Kirov State and was a member of the Communist Party. He joined opposition in 2004, and gained 6% in the 2005 Presidential elections. Abilov was stripped of candidacy in 2012 just before the election. OSDP did well only in Almaty, Mangystau and Astana.
The Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan Коммунистическая народная партия Казахстана (КНПК) is not to be confused with the Communist Party of Kazakhstan (КПК). It is led by Zhambyl Akhmetbekov, born in 1951. He studied in the Agricultural College o Tselinograd and worked as an ideolog. He studied/worked at KIMEP from 1991-1994, and in 2005 joined the central committee of the KPPK. He ran for President in 2011, gaining 1.31% of the vote.
The Казахстанская социал-демократическая партия «Ауыл» is an agricultural party led by Гани Калиев and founded in 2005. He didn’t run in the 2011 Presidential Elections and they gained 1.51% of the vote in 2007.
The Демократическая партия «Адилет», was founded in 2004 on the basis of the social movement «За правовой Казахстан». It’s leader is Maksut Narikbaev, born in 1940 in Taldykorgan. He is a lawyer by training (Kirova), and former advisor to Parliament.
In addition, a semi-oppositional party, Руханият, was deregistered shortly before the election. They had previously gained 0.37% of the vote in 2007. There are claims of nationalism exists, and it also may be allied with foreign green parties. Heading its list was poet Мухтар Шаханов, born in 1940 in Shymkent, и оппозиционный политик Уалихан Кайсаров, who defected from OSDP-Azat.
The most vocal opposition ‘party’ is unofficial. Alga (Алга – ДВК) was deregistered a few years ago and sidelined from what political process exists in the country. It’s leader is Kozlov, and it also has strong ties to self-exiled Oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov. He was born in 1963 in Southern Kazakhstan and studied Theoretical Physics at МИФИ in Moscow before making his millions.
How did things turn out? First of all, voter turnout was low in Almaty and less so in Astana, but over 70-90% in the regions. This may be due to the higher social/work pressure to vote in these areas, and/or group voting. Such tactics would be less palatable to the big city populations and therefore riskier. Three parties appear to have cleared the threshold (7%) – Nur Otan with ~80%, Ak Zhol (8%) and the Communists (~7%).