Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan
On Sunday, April 3, Kazakhstan held a snap presidential election that was called after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled against a bid to bypass next year's presidential poll and hold a referendum to extend President Nursultan Nazarbayev's term until 2020. According to official sources, Nazarbayev won with 95.5% of the vote, with 90% of Kazakhstan’s voters taking part. This election is the latest in a series of moves by the Nur-Otan party to secure Nazarbayev’s position for life.
Anthony C. Bowyer, IFES program manager for the Caucasus and Central Asia, comments:
"Sunday’s presidential election in Kazakhstan appeared to follow a familiar script, with the incumbent handily prevailing amidst tepid opposition. What happens next in terms of follow-on moves to fulfill the government’s vision of democracy, is what bears watching. There is a possibility that a second early election will be called—this time for the Majilis, or lower house of parliament—which the government has previously hinted at. This would be necessarily preceded by an effort to clarify provisions in the election code which enable a party other that Nur-Otan, which holds all 98 party list seats in parliament, to gain seats in the legislature if they fail to surmount the 7% threshold."
"While it remains to be seen whether legitimate opposition parties would be able to surmount the high 7% barrier, there will be a mechanism to allow a party finishing second (yet short of the 7% required threshold) to gain seats. How this will be calculated remains to be determined. However, it is entirely possible that a second party, that being a so-called ’soft‘ or ’flexible‘ opposition, could be installed as the second party in parliament, thereby allowing the authorities to tout a multi-party parliament in the country and still essentially maintain total Nur-Otan dominance."
"With Mr. Nazarbayev in effect serving a life term as president, the parliament remains the only possible entry point for plurality in Kazakhstan politics. What steps are taken to promote real multi-partyism and liberal democracy through elections, in the aftermath of Sunday’s snap presidential vote, bear particular scrutiny and will serve as the next test of the President’s determination to ‘pick up the pace of reform’ on democracy in his country."