Maslikhats Strengthen Their Positions due to Governmental Reforms

The Majilis elections will be held in Kazakhstan on Jan. 10, 2021. Deputies will be elected to the main legislative bodies of the country – the Majilis and the maslikhats. The conditions of the current election campaign significantly differ from the previous one, particularly in regards to the maslikhats.

But firstly, what are maslikhats and what role do they play in the administration of the country? 

The Maslikhat’s Role 

Maslikhats are local representative bodies, whose members are elected by the residents of various administrative-territorial units through a direct voting procedure for a period of five years. They operate at the regional level, in the capital and cities of national significance (Almaty and Shymkent) as well as in cities of regional significance and districts.

Maslikhats contribute to the solution of many pressing issues and problems, thus becoming a kind of bridge between the people and the authorities.

Currently, the competences of maslikhats are limited to the approval of socio-economic programs, consideration of reports of heads of executive bodies, and control over budget execution.

Maslikhats exercise their powers at the sessions. Every year, deputies must hold at least four mandatory meetings, but they can also meet in extraordinary sessions, which must be announced five days in advance. Maslikhats report on their work to the people at least once a year.

During the years of independence, the maslikhat has developed its functionality and has become an important institution influencing the internal political processes in Kazakhstan.

Without the approval of maslikhat deputies, akimats (city administration) do not have the right to implement various programs or appoint government employees to certain positions.

Maslikhat deputies can express a vote of no confidence in akims (mayors) if the deputies twice refuse to approve reports on the activities of akims, on the implementation of socio-economic programs and the local budget. The superior akim or the Kazakh President make the final decision on the dismissal of the akim. 

Election 2021: What’s New?

Following the election victory, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev initiated gradual political reforms in all areas. In particular, the president proposed to introduce changes to local government bodies.

According to his initiative, village akims should be elected directly, and not indirectly through the electoral college. Subsequently, some parties, for example, Ak Zhol, proposed to elect not only the rural akims, but also the heads of all settlements.

Elections to maslikhats of all levels will be held in January of 2021. Until 2019, self-nominated candidates could become members of the maslikhat, but the upcoming elections have several features:

1.Deputies to the maslikhats will be elected not according to the majority system, but according to the proportional system. Thus, the role of parties at the local level will be raised.

2.The elections to the maslikhat are held according to the party lists of political parties.

3.In accordance with the amendments to the Constitutional Law on Elections, a single territorial constituency is formed on the territory of the corresponding administrative-territorial unit during the election of deputies to the maslikhats.

4.The number of women and persons under the age of twenty-nine must be at least 30 percent of the total number of persons included in the party list.

Nur Otan’s primaries will also influence the change in tradition. On the one hand, there is a greater chance of changes as a result of the update in the composition of party cells, especially in the maslikhats, and with the arrival of new persons. There is also an indirect reason: primaries, if repeated on a regular basis in all parties, create a constant rotation of personnel, which sets a high bar for politicians. The necessity to maintain their own political image and authority makes it less likely for politicians to take a passive and conformist position. Consequently, the role of the deputies will become more noticeable in the political life of the country under any system of local self-government.

The Maslikhat is strengthening its position as an institution. At the head of the settlement is the akim elected directly by the people, and the deputies of the maslikhat elected by the population.

Thus, the role of the maslikhats is positively affected by the intra-party (for example, the institution of primaries) and inter-party struggle. The atmosphere of constant competition forces politicians to be more active. 

The author is Aigerim Ospanova, PhD, Professor, head of Department of Regional Studies of Faculty of International Relations at Gumilyov Eurasian National University.

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