Representatives of seven political parties in Kazakhstan debated live on TV on Wednesday (1 March) ahead of the country's 19 March elections to the lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis.
Participants included Berik Dyusembinov, Deputy Chair of the Aq Jol Democratic party; Yelnur Beisenbayev, Executive Secretary of the Amanat party, the party of current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev; Zhiguli Dairabayev, Deputy Chair of the Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic party; Azamatkhan Amirtai, Chair of the Baytaq Green party; Askhat Assylbekov, Deputy Chair of the People’s party of Kazakhstan; Nurlan Auesbayev, Chair of the Astana branch of the National Social Democratic party (NSDP); and Syrymbek Tau, Co-Chair of the Respublica party.
The debate lasted 70 minutes and consisted of four rounds. The first round focused on the main priorities of the parties’ election programmes. In the second round, participants asked and responded to each other’s questions. In the third round, debate moderator Armangul Toktamurat challenged the participants to identify three issues they would try to resolve first if elected to the Mazhilis. And finally, in the fourth round, each party leader made a personal address to the audience.
Below is a summary of each party's priorities and pledges, according to the 1 March debate.
Aq Jol Democratic Party
- Returning to free market conditions, producing tangible economic results.
- Minimising government participation, but the parliament should have a say in approving and controlling the state budget.
- The majority party should form the government to increase its accountability before the parliament.
- Improving the judiciary system.
- Accountability of tax authorities that harm businesses.
- Eliminating injustice, oligopolies and corruption.
- Raising income, decreasing the age limit for retirees, boosting social help, and supporting the interests of children and youth.
- Prioritising social equality, rule of law, the revival of villages and the agro-industrial industry.
- Promoting the Kazakh language to consolidate society.
- Improving the country's agricultural sector.
- Changing the tax regime for agrarian workers, and elevating the status of working people who "provide food for the country".
- Improving infrastructure in villages by ensuring good roads, water, gas, and internet.
- Adopting a law on food safety and stable management of the country’s agricultural sector with strict monitoring.
Baytaq Green Party
- Protection of the environment and human health, concentrating on local self-government.
- Accountability of enterprises and officials for environmental pollution.
- Revision of the Environmental Code.
- Restoration of environmental science in Kazakhstan.
- Eradication of social inequality by assisting vulnerable citizens.
- Prioritising forming a solid middle class and promoting justice.
- Popular elections for district courts.
- Adopting new laws to combat poverty, tax reform, increased social assistance for minors, a minimum wage, female retirement at 58, temporary residence for newlyweds, and mortgage rates not exceeding 3%.
- Providing a land plot for every citizen, as well as free education and medical care.
- Repossessing oligarchs’ property and return illegally privatised enterprises to the state.
- Improving youth policy by providing housing and increasing student stipends.
National Social Democratic Party
- Eradicating corruption and addressing medical care, housing, pensions, and wages.
- Focusing on helping the poorest citizens first.
- Eliminating the oligarchic system.
- Ensuring control over the country’s resources by returning all illegally obtained assets to the people.
- Tackling disparity in education and medium-sized entrepreneurship between cities and the countryside.
- Develop good living standards for rural residents.
- Youth support in villages and cities, creating competitive conditions for qualified young people.
- Providing decent wages to encourage young people not to leave abroad for work.
Elections in Kazakhstan are still deeply flawed despite ongoing reforms
The election will take place on 19 March 2023, with seven political parties and candidates in single-member districts competing for 98 seats in the Mazhilis, and for 3,415 seats in local representative bodies, known as maslikhats.
Kazakhstan's last major election took place on 20 November 2022, when incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was re-elected, winning 81.3% of the votes.
According to the OSCE election monitoring mission, the 20 November presidential election took place in a "political environment lacking competitiveness and, while efficiently prepared, the election underlined the need for further reforms". The OSCE added that President Tokayev was "not meaningfully challenged", and the "ability of citizens to participate fully in political life remains significantly constrained".
After the election, Urszula Gacek, the Head of the ODIHR election observation mission, commented, "with the anticipated parliamentary elections coming soon, there is an opportunity to address the issues identified in today’s statement, including with regard to counting and tabulation procedures to safeguard the transparency and integrity of the vote."