Astana, 20 March 2023 (TDI): Kazakhstan held elections for the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of its parliament, as well as maslikhats, local administrative bodies, on March 19.

Seven political parties campaigned for seats in the Mazhilis, including two new parties. The election used a proportional-majoritarian style, with 69 seats allocated based on party lists and 29 allocated in single-mandate constituencies, and a 5% threshold for political parties to acquire seats in parliament.

For the 69 seats, there were approximately 281 party-list candidates, and for the 29 seats, there were approximately 370 single-mandate candidates, including independent and self-nominated candidates.

According to preliminary results announced by the Central Election Commission on March 20, the Amanat party won a majority with 53.9% of the vote (over 3.4 million votes).

Kazakhstan: Preliminary results of legislative election announced
Kazakhstan: Preliminary results of legislative election announced

With 10.9% of the vote, the Auyl party finished in second, followed by the Respublica party with 8.59% and the Aq Jol party with 8.41%.

The People’s Party of Kazakhstan garnered 6.8% of the vote, with the National Social Democratic Party receiving 5.2% and the Baytaq Party receiving 2.3%.

According to early data, six of the seven parties that ran in the election received the needed 5% of the vote to earn seats in parliament. Almost 3.90% of voters chose the “against all” option.

Around 6.3 million Kazakh residents voted out of more than 12 million eligible voters, representing approximately 54% of eligible voters.

Voter turnout was high in certain regions, including Kyzylorda, Zhambyl, Kostanai, North Kazakhstan, and East Kazakhstan, ranging from 64.15% to 67.21%.

Nonetheless, in important cities like Astana (42.41%), Shymkent (45.46%), and Almaty (25.82%), voter turnout was low.

Foreign observers from 41 different countries and 12 different international organizations witnessed the election.

Also read: Kazakhstan’s journey towards democracy: Elections & reforms

Candidates campaigned enthusiastically and freely, according to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and electoral preparations were handled smoothly.

Observers from several groups, including the Jamestown Foundation’s Margarita Assenova and Erhan Türbedar, Vice President of the International Turkic Academy, noted that the election was transparent, with no severe infractions or abnormalities.

The election was the culmination of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s political renewal cycle, which began with a presidential election in November 2020 and proceeded with a Senate election in January 2021.

Following constitutional modifications last year, significant changes to the electoral system were implemented in comparison to prior elections.

The election threshold for political parties to acquire seats in parliament was reduced from 7% to 5%, and for the first time since 2004, a proportional-majoritarian model was adopted, with 30% of Mazhilis members elected in single-member districts.

It is pertinent to note that these modifications were intended to make the election process more inclusive and competitive.

International observers complimented the election in general, saying that candidates campaigned enthusiastically and freely and that the electoral process was transparent, trustworthy, and democratic.

However, voter turnout was low in some big cities, indicating that more work has to be done to increase electoral engagement. The preliminary results indicate that the Amanat party has won a majority, although the exact results will be released later.