Kazakh Ruling Party Wins 54% of Vote in Snap Election
Members of a local election committee empty a ballot box to count votes after polls closed during parliamentary election in Almaty, Kazakhstan, March 19, 2023. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's ruling Amanat party won 53.9% of the vote in a snap parliamentary election, official data showed on Monday, giving President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev a clear mandate to reform the oil-rich nation in line with his social justice objectives.
No opposition parties ran in Sunday's election, but Western criticism was less pronounced than usual, as Europe and the United States seek to strengthen ties with Russia's neighbours that have been shaken by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said reforms made ahead of the vote addressed some of the democracy watchdog's prior recommendations and "increased choice for voters," although further changes were needed.
Despite a formal easing of requirements for party registration, such as the number of signatures they need to present from every region, no opposition parties were able to register ahead of the vote.
At least one opposition group accused the government of deliberately denying it registration.
A senior Kazakh official said that the OSCE's decision to note positive changes as well as areas of concern was a "welcome encouragement" for the country's authorities to work towards greater democracy.
"Such comments are also important given the geopolitical context of these elections and the unprecedented tensions the region and the world have been going through since last year," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to comment publicly.
The election of the lower chamber completes a shake-up of the Central Asian nation's political elite, which began when Tokayev sidelined his former patron and predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in early 2021 amid violent unrest.
Tokayev, 69, has since pledged to ensure fairer wealth distribution in his vast but sparsely populated country, which is rich in hydrocarbons and minerals.
Russia, a political heavyweight in the Central Asian region and Kazakhstan's biggest trading partner, welcomed the election results as a clear endorsement of Tokayev and his political and economic reforms.
"We reaffirm our commitment in principle to the further strengthening of multifaceted Russian-Kazakh cooperation, including through the parliamentary system," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.