2021 Kazakh legislative election

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2021 Kazakh legislative election

← 2016 10 January 2021

All 107 seats to the Mazhilis
54 seats needed for a majority
  Nursultan Nazarbayev (2020-03-10) (cropped 2).jpg Peruashev 2019 (cropped).jpg Qongyrov, May 2019 (cropped).jpg
Leader Nursultan Nazarbayev Azat Peruashev Aiqyn Qongyrov
Party Nur Otan Ak Zhol People's Party
Leader since 1 March 1999 2 July 2011 11 November 2020
Last election 84 7 7
Seats needed Steady Increase 47 Increase 47

Empty gray map of Kazakhstan.svg
Results by regions

Incumbent Chair

Nurlan Nigmatulin
Nur Otan



Template:Politics of Kazakhstan

Legislative elections are scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan on 10 January 2021 to elect the members of the Mazhilis.[1] This will be the 8th legislative election in Kazakhstan's history since its independence, although many international observers consider that none of the elections since that period have been free or fair. It will coincide with the 2021 local elections. This election marks the first to be held under Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's presidency and the first since 2004 to be held at the normally scheduled date, rather than due to an early dissolution of the Mazhilis.[2][3]

Background[edit source | edit]

Tokayev's presidency and reforms[edit source | edit]

Following the 2016 Kazakh legislative election, the ruling Nur Otan party has maintained the steady control of the Mazhilis.[4] After Nazarbayev's resignation on 20 March 2019 and the snap presidential elections which were held on 9 June 2019, newly-elected President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his inauguration on 12 June promised continuing Nazarbayev's policies in the country’s development and social and economic reforms.[5] Despite the resigning from office, Nazarbayev still holds the title as "Elbasy" ("Leader of the Nation"), remains as the chairman of the Security Council of Kazakhstan for life, and is the Nur Otan chairman and Constitutional Council member, while his eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva held the post as the Senate Chair, the second line of succession in the country after the President.[6] Many analysts considered Tokayev's presidency to be temporary and would set stage for a transition of power to Nazarbayeva.[7]

Throughout the course of his presidency, Tokayev proposed numerous reforms, such as laws on public rallies which excluded provisions requiring official approval, reducing the required number of members in political parties to be registered, offenses such as slander and libel being removed, and hate speech laws being more specific and less harsh.[8] After the adaption of the law in May 2020, it received criticism from Kazakh and international human rights activists who mentioned that the newly reformed rules still fall short of international standards such as barring non-Kazakh citizens from organizing and joining protests and limiting public assemblies to only designated locations.[9]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit source | edit]

Many talks arose of a possible snap legislative elections with Tokayev in announcing the possibility of it being held in April 2020.[10] However, after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kazakhstan in March 2020 which resulted in nationwide lockdowns and quarantine measures, the idea of an early election was put aside as the Kazakh authorities were forced to contain the spread of the virus.[11] Tokayev instructed the government to implement certain fiscal packages such as increasing state pensions and welfare payouts by 10%, provide more tax breaks for small businesses and boost spending on subsidies. He also called for monthly pay of 42,500₸ per person with kits including food products and other basic necessities.[12] On 11 May 2020, Kazakhstan ended the state of emergency, allowing for its regions to slowly lift their lockdowns.[13] However after an increase of COVID-19 cases, Tokayev announced a second lockdown on 29 June 2020 which became effective starting from 5 July 2020.[14] During the period, the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan announced that an "unknown pneumonia" was spreading throughout the country, claiming it be more deadlier than COVID-19. The Kazakh Ministry of Healthcare dismissed those claims, stating that the unspecified case of pneumonia is COVID-19 diagnosis based on symptoms but not confirmed by laboratory testing which was followed by World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.[15][16] The WHO in a press briefing on 10 July 2020, expressed its belief that the unspecified pneumonia cases were most likely in fact, un-diagnosed COVID-19 cases.[17] The nationwide lockdowns in Kazakhstan were originally set to end on 19 July, but were extended twice and eventually lifted on 19 August 2020.[14][18][19] Despite the relief efforts by the authorities, Kazakhstan's GDP throughout the course of the pandemic was shrunk by 1.8% and the unemployment rate reached 5%.[20][21] The total amounted number of unemployed persons and discouraged workers equaled to 10.8%.[21] The monthly stimulus pay enacted in March was criticized as not enough to cover the cost of living in cities such as Almaty and Nur-Sultan.[22]

Corruption scandals[edit source | edit]

Utemuratov case[edit source | edit]

The Wall Street Journal reported on 1 December 2020 that the Business Courts of England and Wales had ordered $5 billion in assets to be frozen which including stakes in luxury hotels, cash in bank accounts in half a dozen countries, and a Burger King franchise connected to Bulat Utemuratov, former president Nursultan Nazarbayev's aide in a settlement made by BTA Bank.[23] Mukhtar Ablyazov, former exiled Kazakh banker and politician whose currently residing in France, denied the allegations whose case was filed as well by the bank, calling it a plot to discredit Utemuratov as "political heavyweight and rival in the fight for power" instigated by the National Security Committee Chairman and former PM Karim Massimov.[24]

Negotiations between representatives of Utemuratov and BTA Bank took place which resulted in a confidential agreement being signed, according to which the bank undertook to withdraw its claim. Under the agreement, the English court removed restrictive measures on Utemuratov's assets on 9 December.[25]

Kulibayev's money laundering[edit source | edit]

On 3 December, the Financial Times released a report that Nazarbayev's son in law Timur Kulibayev had allegedly received tens of millions of dollars in a secret project related to the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Central Asia to China. The report stated that Kulibayev had arranged contracts which saw Moscow-based ETK receive 53 million dollars in a hidden scheme with parts of profit being laundered to Kulibayev's company.[26][27]

In response to the laundering claims, it was reported on 8 December that Kulibayev had dismissed these reports and called on Prosecutor General's Office of Kazakhstan to investigate these allegations.[28]

Real estate assets owned by Nazarbayev's family[edit source | edit]

On 22 December, Radio Azattyq, a Kazakh service of RFE/RL, published an investigation on real estate assets owned by Nazarbayev's relatives as his brother Bolat and ex-wife owning a luxury hillside villa in Cannes and Plaza Hotel as well as an apartment overlooking the Central Park in New York City, luxurious oceanfront estate in Costa Brava, Spain belonging to son-in-law Timur Kulibayev where Nazarbayev himself had reportedly visited it, and several real estate properties in United Kingdom by Dariga Nazarbayeva and her son Nurali which were accused by the British National Crime Agency to be bought from illegal source of funds until the charges were dismissed by the High Court of Justice in April 2020. The total amount of the properties was estimated to be worth $785 million.[29]

Controversies regarding Kazakhstan's integrity[edit source | edit]

On 10 December 2020, during the Channel One Russia program, Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the State Duma and grandson of prominent Soviet politician Vyacheslav Molotov made a controversial statement claiming that the most of present-day Kazakhstan was uninhabited specifically the northern part of the country and that its territory was a "great gift" from Russia and the Soviet Union. As a result, Nikonov received a huge backlash on social media from Kazakhstani users whom accused him of being ignorant and attempting to start a clamor around himself.[30] The Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the claims made by Nikonov in a letter given to the Russian ambassador Aleksander Komarov warning that "increasingly frequent provocative insinuations by some Russian politicians regarding Kazakhstan are seriously harming our states' friendly relations." The Ministry called for the Russian government to take measures in preventing the controversial statements made by the Russian politicians.[31] On 12 December, Nikonov on his Telegram channel made a public apology regarding his words saying "I believe that the interests of Kazakhstan were fully observed when defining the borders of the Kazakh SSR, which became the borders of the Republic of Kazakhstan."[32] However the following day on 13 December, Russian nationalist and State Duma MP Yevgeny Fyodorov at the Belarusinfo YouTube channel supported Nikonov's claims, saying that Kazakhstan "should be grateful for the gift", in which he referred to the country's territory and stated that Kazakhstan should return its territories if it doesn't acknowledge them as "gifts from Russia".[33] Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev in response to the territorial claims fired back at a speech made on 15 December commemorating Independence Day, where he said that Kazakhs are “the descendants of brave ancestors who inhabited a vast valley from Altai to Atyrau, and from Alatau to Arka.”[34] Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi dismissed Nikonov and Fyodorov's statements on 23 December, calling them "bullshit" and noted that the controversy "does not correspond to the official position of the Russian Federation." He added that Kazakhstan has partner relations with Russia and will continue in developing ties based on international laws.[35][36]

On 5 January 2021, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in a state-run newspaper Yegemen Qazaqstan wrote that "our sacred land, inherited from our ancestors, is our main wealth. No one from the outside gave this vast territory to the Kazakhs."[37] He also added that the Kazakh lands would never be sold or rented by foreigners.[38]

Electoral system[edit source | edit]

The 107-seat Mazhilis consists of 98 members elected from a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation and nine seats elected by the Assembly of People, a body selected by the President.[39] The directly-elected seats are elected using a 7% electoral threshold and allocated using the largest remainder method. If parties have an equal largest remainder, the party that was registered first is awarded the seat. If only one party crosses the threshold, the party with the second highest number of votes is awarded at least two seats.[40]

Procedure[edit source | edit]

Official election logo

In the 2021 Majilis election, Kazakhstan introduced a number of measures aimed at the democratization and increasing transparency of the country’s electoral system and procedures.[41] These measures include mandating the legislative codification of a parliamentary opposition, a mandatory 30% quota of women and young people on the electoral party lists and the easing of regulations and restrictions on the creation of political parties. The election threshold for political parties was reduced twice from 40,000 party members to 20,000 party members.[41]

On 21 October 2020, President Tokayev signed the decree setting date for the legislative elections to be held on 10 January 2021, outlining that the composition of the Parliament will focus on "quality legislative support for social and economic reforms in the country."[42]

Possibility of remote voting[edit source | edit]

On 14 October 2020, at a briefing, Healthcare Minister Alexey Tsoi ruled out the possibility of the upcoming parliamentary elections being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, saying that "the Ministry of Health is responsible for safety. At the elections, we will envisage all measures taken in order to maintain the epidemiological situation and ensure the safety of the elections."[43] Shortly after the statements made by Tsoi, a petition was launched in the country against remote voting which was criticized as not guaranteeing the secrecy of the vote which would create opportunities for various manipulations and violations.[44][45]

On 22 October, Central Election Commission (OSK) Chairman Berik Imashev announced that the elections would not be held online, noting that the existing law does not provide the opportunities for voting to be held remotely and instead would be held under strict sanitary guidelines.[46][47]

Parties[edit source | edit]

The Central Election Commission (OSK) announced that the nomination of candidates to the Mazhilis would begin from 10 November 2020 and end on 30 November at 18:00 local time. The OSK required that all registered parties wishing to take part in the election must submit party-list and extracts from the protocol as well as consent from the individuals who are included in the list.[48] By 10 December 2020 18:00, the OSK registered all the total of 312 candidates from the contesting parties.[49] The candidates for Mazhilis MP's from the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan are set to be nominated by the Council of the Assembly from 11 to 21 December with the registration is scheduled from 21 to 26 December.[48]

Pre-election composition[edit source | edit]

As of November 2020, there are 6 registered parties in Kazakhstan, of which three are represented in the Mazhilis.[50]

Party Parliamentary leader No. of seats Last election results

(2016)

NO Nur Otan Nurlan Nigmatulin 84 6,183,757, 82.20% (Increase1)
bgcolor="Template:Ak Zhol Democratic Party/meta/color" | AJ Ak Zhol Democratic Party Azat Peruashev 7 540,406, 7.18% (Decrease1)
QHP People's Party of Kazakhstan Aiqyn Qongyrov 7 537,123, 7.14% (Steady)

Contesting parties[edit source | edit]

File:2021 Kazakh election flyers.jpg
Election noticeboard of party campaign flyers

Five political parties submitted their party-lists to the Central Election Commission (OSK).[51] They include Nur Otan, People’s Party of Kazakhstan (former Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan), Ak Zhol Democratic Party, Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic Party and Adal (former Birlik party).[51]

List of parties that will appear on the ballot by order:[52]

No. Party Main ideology Political position Party leader No. of candidates
1. QHP People's Party of Kazakhstan Communism Left-wing Aiqyn Qongyrov 113
2. NO Nur Otan Nationalism Big tent Nursultan Nazarbayev 126
3. bgcolor="Template:Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party/meta/color" | AUYL Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party Agrarianism Centre-left Äli Bektaev 19
4. bgcolor="Template:Ak Zhol Democratic Party/meta/color" | AJ Ak Zhol Democratic Party Liberalism Centre to centre-right Azat Peruashev 38
5. ADAL Adal Eco-socialism Centre-left Serik Sultangali 20

Campaign[edit source | edit]

According to the Central Election Commission (OSK) guidelines, campaigning kicked off at 18:00 local time on 10 December 2020. During the campaign period, all contesting political parties and candidates can organize and conduct rallies, processions, demonstrations and other pre-election events and are required to notify the OSK ten days before an event is held. The campaign by parties are set to end on 10 January 2021 24:00 local time which would be followed by conduct of the election with voting taking place from 7:00 to 20:00.[53][48]

Nur Otan[edit source | edit]

Primaries[edit source | edit]

On 4 June 2020, Nur Otan Chairman Nursultan Nazarbayev announced primary elections, originally scheduled from 30 March to 16 May, to be held within the party from 17 August to 3 October 2020 as an attempt for open and political competition, promote civic engagement in the political process, and empower women and the youth of the country.[54][55][56] A closed primary took place from 1 to 3 October in-person and online. However, due to apparent technical problems that occurred in the voting website, the primary election was extended for a day.[57] According to the party, nearly 10,000 candidates participated in the primaries with 662,687 people participating in the vote bringing a total of 84% voter turnout.[58]

On 18 November 2020, the Nur Otan revealed its primary results which showed 78 out of 267 applicants being elected by secret electronic voting. 9 candidates were new party members who took part in the primaries, 5 were incumbent Mazhilis MP's, a third of candidates were women, 12 candidates are under the age of 35. The average age of the winning candidates was estimated to be 47. 20% of candidates are engaged in small and medium-sized businesses which consisted of 24.5% economists, 11.5% lawyers and 6 candidates with degrees.[59]

20th Extraordinary Congress[edit source | edit]

At the 20th Extraordinary Congress of Nur Otan held on 25 November 2020. Party chairman Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke at congress saying, "we have proven that Nur Otan is a party of concrete deeds. During the pandemic, the Birgemiz Foundation provided assistance to more than 2 million people. For the party, the interests of ordinary people come first."[60] The Nur Otan presented its party list of 126 people with 77 of them being primary winners.[61] One of the candidates in the list included Nazarbayev's daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva, where she made her first public appearance since after unexpectedly being dismissed as the Senate Chair in May 2020.[62][63] First Deputy Chairman of Nur Otan and former äkim of Almaty Bauyrjan Baibek was appointed as the head of the party's campaign headquarters.[64]

Program[edit source | edit]

Nur Otan's five-year program “Path of Change: A Decent Life for All” was presented at the extraordinary congress.[51] The program focuses on improving the quality of life of the country’s citizens, social justice, and creating an accountable listening state with a key goal of fighting corruption.[51]

Ak Zhol[edit source | edit]

The Ak Zhol Democratic Party announced its participation in the upcoming election. The party called for fair and open elections.[65]

On 20 November 2020, the Ak Zhol held its 16th Extraordinary Congress in Nur-Sultan where the party's chairman Azat Peruashev spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic in Kazakhstan brought bureaucracy and corruption, social injustice and the gap between rich and poor, as well as monopolization of the economy and power. He expressed the need of drastic changes in the country and the same time warned that further changes could lead to a crisis like in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. Peruashev also called for punishment to people committing electoral fraud at the polling sites in which he described as an "illegal seizure of power." The party in it's manifesto announced its support of transitioning Kazakhstan from presidential system to a parliamentary republic and proposed to limit the interest rates of loans on mortgages, consumer goods, SMEs and for people who are the most at risk, as well as adopt a law on bankruptcy which would guarantee borrowers the preservation of their shelter and social benefits.[66][67] Ak Zhol presented its party list of 38 candidates for the Mazhilis that would be competing in.[68]

People's Party[edit source | edit]

The Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan (QKHP) made statement on Facebook about its readiness and confidence in "achieving social justice that will maintain the stability of the economy and social sphere during the global crisis and ensure the well-being of the citizens of Kazakhstan."[69]

The party held its 15th Extraordinary Congress on 11 November 2020 in Nur-Sultan where it was renamed into the People's Party of Kazakhstan (QHP). Parliamentary leader Aiqyn Qongyrov was elected as the party's chairman.[70] The renaming of the QHP was approved by every delegate except for former Honorary Secretary and senior member Vladislav Kosarev, although he did support the change in leadership.[71] At the congress, the party also proposed the idea of giving each family to 20 acres of land for building a house.[71]

The QHP presented its list of 125 candidates for the Mazhilis on 23 November 2020 at the 16th Ordinary Congress where the party expressed interests of the general population by advocating public control over budget spending and allocation of resources, nationalization of the country's strategic industries, preservation traditional values, implementation of a socially-oriented strategy, and a "fair state" for everyone. The party also outlined the goal of becoming a parliamentary majority in the Mazhilis.[72] One of the candidates in the QHP party list included Rimma Ötesbaeva, a Nur Otan party member and the head of a Special Monitoring Group of the Mangystau Region who was bidding for seat in the regional mäslihat. Ötesbaeva wrote on her Facebook page that she was not a member of the QHP and had never even thought of joining the party. She asked the QHP Chairman Aiqyn Qongyrov to be excluded from the party's list and the alleged membership. According to Ötesbaeva, the incident was eventually resolved.[73]

The QHP's party list ended up being registered with just 113 candidates due to lack of consent from the 11 candidates and one withdrawing it's bid.[74]

Auyl[edit source | edit]

Chairman of the Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party Äli Bektaev welcomed the date for the elections stating advantage for parties to campaign because of more preparation time.[75]

At the 18th Extraordinary Congress of Auyl which was held on 17 November 2020, the party announced its intention to enter the Parliament in order to raise political issues for rural areas. Bektaev at the congress said “in our election program, we propose to create a system of long-term crediting of agricultural producers with an annual payment of 2%. We believe that with such support it is possible to increase agricultural production.” Auyl also called for monthly paid social benefits to all children under the age of 18. The party at the congress unveiled its list of MP's for the Mazhilis which consisted of 19 people.[76]

Nationwide Social Democratic Party[edit source | edit]

On 18 September 2020, Deputy Chairman of the Nationwide Social Democratic Party (JSDP) Aidar Alibaev said that the party would not boycott the elections. He emphasized the need for the party to win at least 30% of the vote.[77] In October 2020, JSDP Chairman Ashat Rahymjanov called on the party to participate in the election. From there, he proposed the possibility of changing the electoral system from proportional representation to mixed-member or majoritarian representation.[77]

However on 27 November 2020, at the party's extraordinary congress, the JSDP announced its decision to boycott the upcoming elections due to situation in the country not changing despite the adoption of amendments to the electoral legislation in attempt to "show attitude to the current situation" according to the JSDP Chairman Ashat Rahymjanov.[78][79]

Adal[edit source | edit]

Shortly after the election date was set, the Birlik supported the move stating that "it's important to hold elections within the time frame approved by law."[80] On 5 November 2020, at the meeting of the political council, the party announced its renaming to Adal (lit. Honesty), which according to the party's chairman Serik Sultangali, the re-branding was carried by sociologists in which the Adal variant was liked more.[81] It was re-registered on 11 November.[82]

On 19 November 2020, the Adal revealed its manifesto and its approved list of 20 competing Mazhilis MP candidates, whom are public figures, journalists, ecologists, representatives of the agricultural sector, and authors of social projects.[83] The party announced its five electoral programs which were a decent life for all citizens, entrepreneurship support, development of agriculture, improvement of regions, and a "state for the people". Adal presented its plans for abandonment of mandatory pension contributions, free education, free healthcare with increased pay for doctors, elimination of business restrictions as well as institution of bankruptcy. The party also raised questions in environmental problems by mentioning illegal landfills with solutions such as developing of environmental education, the conversion of heat supply and transformation of public transport to a cleaner gas alternative.[84] Shortly before the start of the congress, Sultangali was asked by journalists on the regards of rumors whether he's supported by Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, in which Sultangali responded saying "every party dreams that this citizen is behind them. He is a well-known personality and businessman. I know him well. As I heard, he has no political ambitions. The people, the spirit of my father and mother, stand behind me."[85]

Unregistered parties and movements[edit source | edit]

Protests and calls for boycott[edit source | edit]

Several unregistered parties called for protests and boycott over the election. A sanctioned rally was held in Walikhanov Square in Almaty on 31 October 2020 by human rights activists which was supported by Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (QDT) and Koshe Party, demanding political reforms and an end to political persecutions.[86] The unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (QDP) held a legal single-person picket protests throughout the country demanding the government to register other parties to take part in the election.[87] The party held an authorized demonstration in Almaty on 14 November 2020 which called for boycott in the election, freedom for political prisoners, and a moratorium on land sales for foreigners.[88]

On 16 December 2020, at the Independence Day, unsanctioned protests took place in Almaty by activists of Oyan, Qazaqstan and Democratic Party of Kazakhstan. The demonstrators gathered in the Republic Square holding signs that read "Never forget 1986 and 2011", "Lives taken on December 16, votes to be taken on January 10", "Kazakhstan needs an upgrade!" and demanded the release of all political prisoners, fair elections, and the registration of all opposition parties. The Kazakh police responded the situation by surrounding and dividing the protesters in groups to prevent them from marching to the Astana Square. No arrests were conducted and the protesters were eventually dispersed after three hours with the law enforcement reportedly following them.[89]

Opposition movement Halyq Biligi (People's Rule) demanded the Kazakh authorities to postpone the upcoming parliamentary elections at a news conference on 22 December 2020, citing the legislation that prevents any alternative political force participating in the race. The movement representatives urged all Kazakhstani citizens to boycott the polls if the demands weren't met by the Kazakh government as a way to de-legitimatize the elections.[90]

Smart voting[edit source | edit]

Prior before the announcement of the elections, talks arose among Kazakh activists on the possibility of using Alexei Navalny's inspired smart voting tactic to draw votes away from the ruling Nur Otan party.[91] Advocates of "smart voting" recommended electors to vote for the opposition Nationwide Social Democratic Party (JSDP), noting that whether its stance of actually being an opposition to the government has no importance.[92]

Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (QDT) leader Mukhtar Ablyazov spoke in favor of "smart voting". On 17 November 2020, he called on his supporters to vote for the JSDP which he accused of being government controlled as a way to show evidence of electoral violations that would be occurred during ballot counting, prevent Nur Otan from possibly obtaining more than 50% of the vote, spark mass protests in the country similarly like in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and expose the JSDP as being "fraudulent" party.[93] After the announcement, many videos were shared through social media showing Kazakh citizens being permitted and intimidated from joining JSDP by the party's representatives. JSDP chairman Ashat Rahymjanov called Ablyazov's move as "provocation".[94] After the party announced its withdrawal from the elections, Ablyazov accused of the JSDP's decision being carried out under Nazarbayev's orders and instead urged people to vote for the Ak Zhol Democratic Party.[95] In response, the Ak Zhol stopped accepting new members until after the elections to prevent alleged rumors that the party had increased its ranks because of Ablyazov's intentions.[96]

Controversies[edit source | edit]

Pressure and political violence[edit source | edit]

Through mid-October to November, at least 13 human rights non-government organizations (NGOs) who are involved in civil rights, election monitoring, environmental issues, and freedom of expression faced political pressure by the Kazakh authorities whom accused the groups of tax evasion. The Kazakh government ordered the NGOs to pay fine of 555,600 tenge (1300$) and to suspend its activities.[97][98]

Esengazy Quandyq, a Kazakh civil activist and history professor who is known to be a government critic complained about political violence after his car was set on fire in around 2 AM in Almaty. Quandyq suspected the cause to be arson due to recent online articles where he criticized the Kazakh authorities over the election.[99]

Crackdown of journalists and activists[edit source | edit]

Kazakh blogger and journalist Aigul Otepova was placed in psychiatric clinic on 23 November 2020 after local court ruled that she must stay one month in the clinic for a "sanity check". Otepova was accused of being a supporter of banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (QDT) movement to which she denied the accusations, claiming to be an independent journalist and blogger. Otepova was released from the faculty on 11 December 2020, but remains under house arrest until 17 January 2021.[100]

Alibek Moldin, a Kazakh activist was detained by the Aktobe police and placed under house arrest on 10 November 2020. The Aktobe court granted Moldin a one-year parole sentence until 21 December 2021 after being found guilty of being the leader of the Koshe Party, a movement associated with QDT.[101]

On 22 December 2020, disabled Kazakh activist Asanali Suyubaev was taken to a psychiatric clinic by medical personnel and police in Aktobe after allegedly tearing down campaign poster of the ruling Nur Otan party. This was confirmed by the clinics deputy chief physician Esenaman Nysanov saying that "he behaved in a strange way, namely, while outside, he was tearing election posters, which can be defined in a medical term as addictive behavior." Nysanov also noted that Suyubaev had been under "psychiatric control" from 2012.[102]

The Nur-Sultan court sentenced Ghadilbek Serikbaev to 15 days in jail on 6 January 2021, hours after he was detained by police at a medical clinic where he was required to get tested for COVID-19 as a requirement to be election observer. Charges against Serikbaev were made after his Facebook post made on 2 January where he called for demonstrations in Nur-Sultan on election day.[103] That same day, three Kazakh activists in Aktobe: Aitjan Temirghaziev, Berikjan Toqin, and Asylhan Jaubatyrov were sentenced to 7 days in jail for violating "regulations for public events" after being detained while distributing leaflets on 4 January calling for local residents to hold a protest near the city's Central Stadium.[104] Another Kazakh activist, Nurjan Muhammedov, was detained in Shymkent and charged with "taking part in the activities of a banned group."[105]

The Ak Zhol Democratic Party filed a complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs after it received reports of the party staffers being detained and prosecuted with the campaign materials being confiscated by the police. Ak Zhol Chairman Azat Peruashev in a statement condemned the actions made by the Kazakh law enforcement and called for the authorities to ensure legal protections for the detained staffers.[106] It is speculated that the arrests of the Ak Zhol staffers were related to illegal activities made by Mukhtar Ablyazov whom called his supporters to vote for the party in order to draw away votes from the ruling Nur Otan party.[107]

Nur-Sultan cyber security training[edit source | edit]

On 5 December 2020, the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry warned Kazakhstani citizens about the possible problems with access to foreign internet websites due to the "Cybersecurity Nur-Sultan-2020" training which aimed at preventing cyber attacks. To avoid the problems for internet users, the Ministry urged people to install a government-issued certificate on computers and phones which would allow the Kazakh government to intercept all the proxy server made by a user.[108] As the cyber exercise began on 6 December, many Nur-Sultan residents complained about not being able to access sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook and Netflix. Kazakh internet service providers such as Beeline, Tele2 and Kcell instructed citizens to install a certificate by redirecting them through websites and SMS messages.[109] The Kazakh government dismissed the accusations that the training was conducted because of the upcoming elections by claiming that the exercise was planned prior before the announcement of election day.[110] Ruslan Abdihaliqov, head of the Information Security Committee of the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry, apologized to the public about the incident saying that problems with access to the state internet websites revealed problems in the organizational and technological base in the field of digitalization.[111]

Observation[edit source | edit]

On 22 October 2020, the Central Election Commission (OSK) announced the opening of Institute of International Observation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sending invitations to 11 international organizations, including the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, CIS Executive Committee, CSTO and others. The OSK intends to send invitations to 25 electoral bodies of foreign countries through its bilateral relations.[112]

On 4 December 2020, the OSK issued a decree on election observers, restricting them of live broadcasting polling stations, as well use of photos and videos in unallocated places.[113] The move by the OSK was criticized as an attempt of barring independent observers from the polls as well as a violation of the constitutional law.[114] Many domestic groups complained about having their observer registration rejected due to allegedly not submitting required paperwork and being asked for enormous amount of documents. As a result, the groups filed a lawsuit against the OSK to the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan which refused to accept hearings.[115]

Map of countries (dark blue) of which international observers were deployed in Kazakhstan (navy blue)

By 5 January 2021, there were in-total of 398 observers accredited in the country by the OSK, in which 322 were from these 10 international organisations:[116][117]

76 foreign observers were deployed from the countries of Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Moldova, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Russia, Romania, India, Philippines, Hungary, Spain, Norway, France, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Estonia, Ukraine, Germany, Belgium, Palestine, United Kingdom, Mongolia, Sweden, Canada, and Finland.[116][117]

OSCE[edit source | edit]

On 8 December 2020, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened a Limited Election Observation Mission (LEOM) led by Ambassador Jarosław Domański [pl] and consists of a team of 11 experts based in Nur-Sultan.[118] From 15 December, long-term observers of 24 people were deployed.[119]

The OSCE mission in its interim report released on 23 December 2020, wrote that "Nur Otan’s campaign appears more visible, although all of the campaigns are presently low key. There are small numbers of billboards from all of the parties located around the country; posters and distribution of materials are scarce." The report also noted the need of "an increasing space for pluralism of news and opinions online, despite Internet shutdowns and blocking of websites."[120]

Debates[edit source | edit]

Televised debates between party leaders and representatives took place on 30 December 2020 at the Khabar Agency.[121] The participants were given one and half minute to speak and respond to the questions that were asked. The speakers were allowed to ask two questions to each other and two answers to respond to one another. The debate was held in three stages: in the first round, party leaders and representatives expressed their plans for the economic development in Kazakhstan. The second round was based on the topic of social welfare in the country while the third round, the speakers on the debate stage made their address the voters.[122] The participants raised issues in land relations, economic development, food security, social issues, and problems of the agro-industrial complex.[123]

2021 Kazakh legislative election debates
Date Organiser Moderator     P  Present  R  Representative
NO AJ QHP AUYL ADAL Ref.
style="background:Template:Ak Zhol Democratic Party/meta/color;" | style="background:Template:Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party/meta/color;" |
30 December 2020
19:00 AT
Khabar Agency Erlan Igisinov R
Baibek
P
Peruashev
P
Qongyrov
P
Bektaev
R
Jumagaziev
[124]

Opinion polling[edit source | edit]

Nationwide polling showed ruling Nur Otan with a significant lead from around 75–77% which slightly decreased from October 2020. Auyl People's Democratic Patriotic Party started out in second place but its lead eventually fell and was taken over by the Ak Zhol Democratic Party. Some speculated that the Adal party was underestimated in the polls because of its huge campaign on social media in contrast to other parties, making it a possible competitor to Ak Zhol.[125]

Several Kazakh bloggers and activists whom conducted independent polling on social media throughout the course of the election were threatened with a fine by the Prosecutor General's Office of Kazakhstan due to not being officially registered surveyors.[126]

Opinion polling for 2021 Kazakh leigslative elections.png
Date Poll source NO AJ QHP AUYL ADAL JSDP Lead
bgcolor="Template:Ak Zhol Democratic Party/meta/color" |
10 January 2021 2021 results TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA TBA
4 January 2021 IEI 69.5% 10.4% 8.1% 4.5% 3.1% 59.1%
4 January 2021 Astana Zertteu 73.7% 6.8% 6.4% 4.1% 3.4% 66.9%
31 December 2020 Nur.kz 73.8% 5.7% 5.1% 4.1% 2.2% 68.1%
25 December 2020 Astana Zertteu 74.2% 5.2% 4.4% 6% 2.5% 68.2%
9 December 2020 PORI 72.5% 5.5% 4.7% 3% 2.5% 77%
30 November 2020 IEI 72.3% 2% 3.3% 5% 1.4% 1.6% 77.3%
12 November 2020 PORI 72.1% 2.9% 2.7% 5.1% 1.9% 2.3% 77%
20 March 2016 2016 Results 82.20% 7.18% 7.14% 2.01% 0.29% 1.8% 75.02%

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