Majilis Election 2021: Agenda and Effects of Primaries on Electoral Performance

Here’s the continuation of stories that feature the forthcoming Majilis (a lower house of the Kazakh Parliament) election, which will be held on Jan.10, 2021.

In the first part of this series the program and visions of five political parties taking election were presented. Now the election’s major features and agenda come into spotlight. 

What’s on the agenda of the political parties?

Sociological studies show that socio-economic issues are at the center of citizens’ concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. This trend is relevant for the whole world.

Even before the parties began to present their election programs, it was clear that the request would primarily focus on socially oriented ideas, aimed at solving the most pressing issues related to the well-being of citizens. These ideas are most clearly reflected in the electoral program of the Nur Otan party.

Also the clarity of the proposed program and the elaboration of its tasks in all areas play an important role. In this regard, the Nur Otan party program is the most popular.

The importance of political participation of women and youth in elections

Kazakhstan, declaring its intention to become a progressive country, within the framework of the signed international declarations, will ensure the representation of women in power through state-enforced quotas.

Thus, Kazakhstan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In 2019, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended Kazakhstan to revise the Concept of Family and Gender Policy to establish a 50 percent quota for the representation of women in all spheres of life.

Women and youth constitute over half of the population of Kazakhstan. Thus, an increase in the representation of women and youth in politics will make it possible to increase the attention paid to solving problems important for these categories of the population.

Today, the share of women deputies of Parliament in Kazakhstan is 22 percent, and persons under the age of 29 are not represented in Parliament. Only 2.4 percent of young people and less than 20 percent of women are represented in Maslikhats, in some regions this figure is at the level of five-seven percent.

The introduction of quotas to guarantee equal access for women and youth to the electoral process is widely used in the world. Today, out of 193 UN member states, more than 120 countries have gender quotas.

According to experts, as a result of the introduction of quotas, the number of women elected to the world’s parliaments has more than doubled since the historic 4th UN World Conference on Women, held 25 years ago.

Thus, the introduction of a 30 percent quota will increase the representation of women and youth among candidates for Parliament and Maslikhat deputies at all levels.

Primaries and their influence on electoral performance

The primaries of the Nur Otan party contributed to the implementation of the most important tasks.

First, it ensured that the electoral program and electoral tasks correspond to the most important requests and expectations of the country’s citizens. According to Nazarbayev, as a result of the participation of the citizens, 216 pre-election regional programs were discussed and adopted. The party considered more than 17,000 proposals from citizens. 

As a result, the party’s program for a five-year term will be finalized considering the opinions of people as well as the budgetary possibilities of each district, city and region.

Secondly, the primaries served as a kind of filter or a social lift, that contributed to the formation of “people’s party lists” from among authoritative leaders with high public support, who are ready to participate in the development of their region and country. 77 candidates who were selected at the district, city and regional levels were nominated by the decision of the political council for approval by the party congress.

At the same time, as noted by domestic political scientists, preliminary voting provided a unique opportunity to determine the level of support for certain ideas and proposals, which will reduce the risk of mistakes at the final stage of the elections.

Since elections to Maslikhats and Majilis are held on party lists according to the proportional representation system, voters may not even know their potential deputies.

In this regard, participation in the primaries helps to avoid depersonalizing the elections.

Well-conducted primaries contributed to the prioritization of important tasks as well as to the recent strategy reset of the party.

The author is Aiman Zhussupova, an expert of the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP)  under the Nursultan Nazarbayev Foundation.

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