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SD ANALYSIS - Kazakhstan’s Presidential Election
Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
07 Mayıs 2019 13:52

Election is the new “Bible of modern democracy” in which “representatives of people” are elected through ballots/votes. It has many sizes, shapes and shades but having one common thing i.e. change through “legitimate means” (election/vote). Regular election provides “crucial oxygen” to a democratic system where “political supremacy” is decided by people/voters. The REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN has been conducting presidential as well as other elections on regular basis since its inception.   

Snap Presidential Election 2019

A snap Presidential election will be held on June 9, 2019 in Kazakhstan which will be remove political uncertainty, economic chaos and social disharmony. It will definitely ensure harmony, and further strengthening of socio-economic development.

Interim president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev after consulting speakers of both the houses has announced next presidential election in the month of June 2019 instead of 2020. Now all the major political parties have nominated their presidential candidates. The ruling Nur Otan party has nominated incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as its candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Charged Political Parties

Political activities are now getting momentum in Kazakhstan. State organs are busy to honor the free will of the people by providing every possible facility to conduct fair, free and transparent snap presidential elections 2019.

Kazakhstan’s Central Elections Commission

Kazakhstan’s Central Elections Commission is the real in-charge of elections because of its constitutional status which clearly enforces its complete “independence” and “neutrality”. It is taking all important decisions reaffirming total transparency, fair-play, equal opportunity and free choice for the upcoming elections 2019. Moreover, gradual but consistence reforms of politicization and democratization have further strengthened political stability, democracy and socio-economic sustainability in Kazakhstan. It promotes spirits of decency, rule of the law and accountability in its political system.

The Kazakh Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has closed presidential election’s nominations on April 28, 2019.  Initially nine candidates submitted their candidatures in the CEC which was subsequently, was reduced by to eight after a candidate withdrew (Ak Zhol Democratic Party member Talgat Yergaliyev later withdrew his name in support of the party’s single candidate, Daniya Yespayeva.). The candidates’ registration stage will continue until May 11.

Democratic Kazakhstan

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a democratic country where all the democratic norms are pursued in its true spirits. It has conflict resolution mechanism in its political system and governance model which is progressive, pragmatic and prosperous due to which it never experienced any “Political Stalemate” or “Constitutional Pandemonium” since its inception. According to an official figure, Kazakhstan has the 96th largest legislature in the world by number of member’s parliaments.  Its political system is strong, stable and sustainable and political dispensation has been marginalized through the collective choice of common people which are the real “Conquerors of Democracy”.

Strategic Importance of 5Ps

In today modern democracy and political system 5Ps i.e. Parliament, President, Prime Minister, People and of course Press play very important role and Kazakhstan is blessed with all 5Ps, being a democratic country. High level of political stability and functional parliament controls important decisions through the concept of “Separation of Power & Checks and Balances” mentioned in its dynamic “constitution”. It has presidential (Unitary) form of government.

Honoring of People’s Free Choice

Honoring of people’s free choice is one the main pillars of modern democracies around the world.  It has Presidential form of democracy (multiparty) which is carried out through direct vote which reflects collective wisdom and free choice of its common people. It upholds the international standards of fair-play, transparency and impartiality in the entire electoral system.

Kazak Constitution

It follows its constitution which is indeed custodian of all civil liberties, human rights, political freedoms and democratization. Deity of modern democracy highlights salient features of a democratic country which is “for the people, by the people and of the people” and it has already been institutionalized since its inception in Kazakhstan.

Presidential Election/Direct Voting

Holding of Presidential Elections through direct voting is a healthy sign for politicization and democratization drives in Kazakhstan that all existing political parties in the country have expressed their willingness to take part in the upcoming presidential election in the country. Political parties have already submitted necessary documents to the Central Election Commission of Kazakhstan.

Contributory Role of Kazak People

People of Kazakhstan elect their representatives at every stage of “political contest”. Elections are totally fair, free and transparent where common people/voters are “absolutely free” to cast their votes and ultimately “collective choice” prevails.

The Central Elections Commission of Kazakhstan being an independent organ of the “State” has already announced “schedule” of the upcoming snap presidential elections. It has also announced different parameters/guidelines to be followed for every political party and its presidential candidates in the country.

Article 55” of the “Constitutional Law”

According to “Article 55” of the “Constitutional Law” on Elections in Kazakhstan, the right to nominate presidential candidates belongs to national public associations registered in the established manner. In this connection, every presidential nominee, candidates should provide the CEC with an extract from the nominating meeting minutes of a national public association’s highest bodies, the candidate’s statement of consent to run for president and a document certifying that the candidate has made an election contribution established by law (2.13 million tenge (US$5,574).

CEC Approval of Nominations

The CEC has now approved four nominees’ compliance with legislation requirements i.e. Amangeldy Taspikhov, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Sadybek Tugel and Daniya Yespayeva. To judge political popularity and wide acceptance of every presidential election nominee the CEC has advised all the candidates to collect signatures in their support and must collect 118,140 signatures in at least 12 regions, cities of national significance and the capital.

In addition to collecting signatures, the candidates must submit a health certificate and provide state revenue authorities at their place of residence with a declaration of income and property on themselves and their spouses from April 1, the first day of the nomination period’s month.

Multi-Parties” Democracy

The Republic of Kazakhstan has “Multi-Parties” democracy in its country. All political parties have equal rights to participate in the upcoming presidential elections 2019. All political parties have rights of electoral meetings, campaigns and media projections to seek votes/support from the common people. Representatives of the print media, TV and radio, observers from other states, international organizations and movements have the right to observe all the process of elections.

Healthy Role of Media

Media is considered to be “4th pillar” of the modern state which is very much active and neutral in Kazakhstan which plays very important role in holding free, fair and transparent elections. Its country wide media coverage makes elections proceedings balance, equal and fair in Kazakhstan.

Instrumental Role of Kazak Society

Kazakhstan has one of the most outspoken and vivacious “Civil Society” in the region. Its diversified but integrated role is immense. It acts as “Watch-Dogs” during the process of “Presidential Elections”. It role is productive which upholds “credibility” of the electoral process in all the elections in Kazakhstan. It role is supportive to meet the international standards of democratic norms and elections.

Role of International Observers

Role of “International Observes” has become “crucial” in any elections and treated as the “Basic Necessity” and benchmark of Western Democracy. Since Kazakhstan is an open, connected and transparent country which tends to invite a large numbers of international observes to witness the process of elections in the country. They all participate in each and every process of elections and independently give their observations and comments.

Participation of foreign and international observers in the elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan further strengthen and reconfirm the principles of transparency and openness of the entire electoral process, respect for the principles of democratic elections such as: universality, equality, freedom and secret ballot in in its country.

Expected Participation of International Observes

Its Central Election Commission has already sent the official invitation to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS Executive Committee), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and many others World Election Bodies to observe the elections of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan society is vibrant and politically charged. It will actively participate in the upcoming Presidential Elections. Political parties are rigorous engaged with their supporters to win the “political battle through ballots”. International observers have been invited to observe the complete process of elections. Civil Society is dynamic and ready to play its supportive role in the upcoming presidential elections. NGOs are human asset to Kazakhstan and will demonstrate its effectiveness during the elections.

All the candidates of upcoming presidential election are highly educated, motivated and determined to further strengthening of socio-economic prosperity and consolidation of political comparative advantage of their country.

Salient features of their professionalism, human traits are given below as:-

Source: The Kazakhstan CEC (May, 2019) 

Most of the presidential candidates has passed Kazakhstan language proficiency test by by writing a maximum two-page essay in Kazakh, reading Kazakh text provided to them and speaking in Kazakh on a topic for at least 15 minutes.

Kazakhstan’s Political Composition

Kazakhstan has a presidential system in which the executive branch exercises wide authority relative to the parliament. The president appoints the prime minister and government, upon consultation with the parliament, as well as the foreign, internal and defence ministers, the prosecutor general and executive authorities at the regional level. The president may veto legislation passed by the parliament and has the power to dissolve parliament. Following the  early parliamentary elections 2016, the ruling Nur Otan party holds 84 of the 98 directly-elected seats in the lower chamber of parliament (Majilis). An additional nine seats are indirectly elected by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body appointed by the president.

Two other parties are now represented in the parliament: Ak-Jol and the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan, with 7 seats each. In total, there are seven registered political parties. Other registered political parties are: Auyl, Azat, Birlik, and the National Social Democratic Party. Women hold some 27 per cent of seats in the lower chamber of the parliament and 2 of 18 ministerial posts.

Election System

Electioneering is a complex and complicated job which needs proper experience and apparatus. In Kazakhstan the legal framework for presidential elections includes the Constitution, the Constitutional Law on Elections (Election Law), and regulations of the Central Election Commission (CEC). Kazakhstan is a party to major international and regional instruments related to the holding of democratic elections. Following amendments to the Constitution in 2017, mainly related to the transfer of certain powers from the president to the government, the Election Law was amended in 2017 and 2018. The amendments included changes related to candidate rights and registration, voter registration and the structure of lower-level election administration. The president is directly elected for a five-year term by an absolute majority. If no candidate receives above 50 per cent of the votes cast, a second round between the two candidates with the highest number of votes is held within two months. In the second round, the candidate who receives the higher number of votes is elected.

The election administration is three-tiered, comprising of the CEC, 232 Territorial Election Commissions (TECs), and 9,970 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs). Three of seven members of the CEC and some 67 per cent of all lower-level commissioners are women. All commissions are formed for five years and consist of seven members. The CEC chairperson and two members are appointed by the president (incumbents were appointed on 30 September 2016), while the lower and upper chambers of parliament each appoint two members (last appointments were in 2017 and 2018). Members of lower-level commissions are selected by local councils (Mashlikhats), based on nominations from political parties.

In January 2019, the new lower-level commissioners were also appointed, following the expiration of the mandates of previous commissioners. The CEC is responsible for the overall conduct of the election, including the registration of candidates and maintenance of the nationwide voter list. It is also in charge of campaign finance oversight.

According to Kazakhstan’s Election Law all citizens over 18 years of age have the right to vote, except those declared incompetent by a court or those serving prison sentences, irrespective of the gravity of the crime. Voter registration is passive and several changes have been introduced since the last elections. According to the CEC, there are some 11.8 million voters.

Nomination of Presidential Candidates

Presidential candidates can be nominated by public associations, including political parties. The 2018 amendments to the Election Law, removed the possibility for candidates to be self-nominated. In addition to having the right to vote, prospective candidates are required to be citizens by birth, at least 40 years old, fluent in the Kazakh language, and officially resident in Kazakhstan for the last 15 years.

Amendments (2017)

Following the 2017 amendments to the Constitution and Election Law, candidates are also required to have a higher education and at least five years of experience in either public service or elected office. The first step of this process is support signature collection. Each nominee should collect signatures from at least one per cent of the total number of registered voters (118,140 for this election), equally representing at least two thirds of the regions and cities of ‘national significance’ and the capital. In addition, they need to pay a deposit of some EUR 5,000 for this election and present tax declarations for themselves and their spouse.

In addition, prospective candidates need to pass a language test, consisting of an examination of reading, writing and speaking abilities. For this purpose, the CEC established the Linguistic Commission, an independent body tasked to provide its conclusions to the CEC who make the final decision on candidatures.

Uniform Start to Political Campaign

The recent changes to the Election Law introduced a uniform start to the campaign, which will begin once candidate registration is finished on 11 May. The campaign lasts until midnight on 7 June. The Election Law guarantees the right to conduct an unimpeded campaign for or against any candidate. The Law on Peaceful Assemblies includes rules on the holding of public assemblies. In particular, it requires advance approval, rather than notification, for meetings. To finance their campaign, candidates can use public and private funds.

Provision of Election Expenses

The amount that candidates can spend may not exceed 12,000 times the minimum wage (some EUR 1.12 million). Candidates can accept donations from citizens and organizations, up to 15,000 times the minimum wage. Foreign and anonymous donations are prohibited. Candidates are obliged to open dedicated bank accounts for campaign finance and banks should notify the CEC if the spending limit is exceeded. Five days after the announcement of the election results, candidates are obliged to submit a report on their campaign finance to the CEC, which is published on the CEC website.

Freedom of Expression & Equitable Access to Mass Media

Freedom of expression, media freedom and the right of access to information are guaranteed in the Constitution, but the legal framework for media contains a number of restrictive provisions. The Criminal Code contains penalties for defamation and insult and provides special protection for the president and his family and public officials. The Criminal Code also contains a provision on incitement of social, national and religious discord, and on spreading false information, with a penalty of up to 20 and 10 years of imprisonment, respectively. The Committee for Communication, Informatization and Information (Media Committee) under the Ministry of Information and Social Development is responsible for overseeing broadcast media and granting broadcasting licenses.

Amendments (2015)

The 2015 amendments to the Law on Communication gives authority to the Media Committee, as well as Prosecutor General, to block websites and ban media outlet operation, without a court decision. The Election Law provides equal access for candidates to state-funded airtime and print space, as well as the right to purchase additional airtime and space. Each candidate is entitled to 15 minutes of free airtime on television, 10 minutes of free airtime on radio, and 2 free articles in newspapers. For paid advertisement, all media are obliged to provide the price list of paid advertisements to the CEC, no later than 10 days after the election is announced. The CEC has also developed rules for organizing debates between candidates during the campaign in media. Television is widely considered to be the main source of political news. Most media are privately owned.

Election Complaints

Election-related complaints may be filed by all electoral participants with either the superior election commission or the courts within ten days of the decision, action or inaction. Courts must consider complaints within five days or immediately if submitted less than five days before the election. Election commissions have three days for consideration of complaints. Decisions can be further appealed by all electoral participants. Appeals against CEC decisions on candidate registration can be made to the Supreme Court within ten days from the denial of registration, whose decisions are final.

Allegations of election offenses can also be filed with public prosecutors, who are proactively monitoring media, the Internet and social media networks to ensure compliance with the law. Final election results may be appealed to the Constitutional Council within ten days of the announcement by a limited number of complainants, including the president, speakers of both houses of parliament, or at least one fifth of the members of parliament and the prime minister.

The Election Law provides for citizen and international observation of elections. Citizen observers may be nominated by public associations and non-profit organizations. Candidates are entitled to have proxies who enjoy similar rights as observers, and, in addition, can also request recounts of results in a polling station. There is no formal accreditation procedure for citizen observers, who are required to present a letter from their nominating organization and their identification document to the election commission. Kazakhstan ECE takes extra care about impartiality of the election administration, candidate registration, the conduct of the campaign and respect for fundamental freedoms, media coverage of the elections, and the administration of election day procedures, including the vote count and tabulation of results.

Government's has sanctioned 9.4 billion tenge from the reserve of the Government for the 2019 presidential election which will be channeled into ensuring the proper functioning of some 10,000 polling stations across Kazakhstan where nearly 70,000 people are going to work.

Conclusion

Democracy is a BROAD and DIVERSE system of governance and delivery. Every country has a unique democratic system, and countries will therefore be differently democratic and nevertheless, Kazakhstan is the “Real Champion” of “people free choice” in the region as well as in the world since its inception. It has various salient features i.e. respect for basic human rights, a multi-party political system based on political tolerance, a democratic voting system, respect for the rule of law, democratic governance and the last but not the least, citizen participation.

The REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN is blessed with all these “golden principles” of modern democracy. Its Constitution guarantees basic human rights. Its “Election Law” furnishes development of political parties due to which it has multi-party democracy. Its traditions and historic traits are tolerant due to which it has tolerant society and political atmosphere too. Again, its Election Law protects and provides equal rights to all the participating political parties and voters in order to uphold the true spirits of free choice.  

Modern democracy is based on fair, free and transparent elections in which the rulers are elected by the people and of course those currently in power have a fair chance of losing. A snap presidential election will be held on June 9, 2019 in Kazakhstan. Election campaign will be started on May 11, 2019 in the country. Major political parties have nominated and submitted list of their respective candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Even a “Woman Candidate” will also be participating first time in the political history of Kazakhstan which shows real essence and strength of its democracy and democratic government.

Modern democratic system is also based on the recognition of the fundamental worth and dignity of every person; respect for the equality of all persons, faith in majority rule and an insistence upon minority rights,  acceptance of the necessity of compromise; and total transparency. Kazakhstan has actually outperformed all the regional economies in terms of GDPs, GNPs, Foreign Direct Investments, massive industrialization and unmatched social development since its inception which has not be possible without having a Liberalized Economy, Competitive Society, Integrated Political System, Supportive Judicial System and above all Rule of the Law. Its stable political system provided the much needed element of the human growth i.e. “Continuity of the System|”.  

Being prominent regional expert on Kazakhstan and CIS, I personally think that holding of a snap presidential election will further strengthen its political system, economic reforms, national drive of massive industrialization, development of renewables and provide state policy clarity towards various regional as well as international engagements. It will hopefully, streamline process of democratization in the country. It will further enhance elements of political stability and economic maturity in the state decision making. It will also consolidate legitimacy of the system and functionality of new president. 

It will simply institutionalize peaceful transition of power from one generation to another because in true democracy only people have the right to elect their representatives including President, the highest constitutional authority in the Presidential form of government.  Snap presidential election is not anti-constitution as it accordance with Constitution of Kazakhstan which reflects its collective national political wisdom. President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has announced it after consulting and coordinating with the speakers of both houses of the Parliament, the Prime Minister of the country, the Constitutional Council and leaders of the parliamentary parties.

Kazakhstan as an economy and society has seen incredible change for the better. It is now among the top 50 developed countries. Incomes have risen nine-fold since inception. Its citizens enjoy some of the best education and healthcare in the region. It has diversified society lives in harmony.

Kazakhstan is a democratic country which cares about functionality of the political system, fair, free and transparent elections and democratic norms. Transparency, fair-play, equal opportunity and free choice are the Bible of modern democracy and elections. Their just execution tends to open the numerous ways of further political stability, democratization and socio-economic sustainability. Their ideal combination promotes spirits of decency, rule of the law and accountability in the systems and societies. The upcoming Presidential Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan will further strengthen its socio-economic reforms and drive of further politicization and democratization in the country.

Path of glory, political stability and socio-economic sustainability heavy rests on the continuity of the “SYSTEM”. Knowledge based economy and further deepening of politicization and democratization process in the Republic of Kazakhstan is also dependent on reforms/policies/programs, protection of basic human rights, generation of jobs and respect of human capital to achieve miracles and being a prominent regional expert on Kazakhstan and the CIS I have firm faith that Kazak people will vote for further economic prosperity, political stability, sustainable social development, human growth and national sovereignty. Presidential elections in Kazakhstan will be held on the basis of total transparency, fair-play, equal opportunity and the last but not the least people’s free choice. To conclude I predict that KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV the interim/incumbent President will merge winner of people’s free choice in the upcoming presidential election to be held on June 9, 2019.