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Kazakhstan: Little Enthusiasm for No Choice Elections

After the political controversy that accompanied the New Year holidays in Kazakhstan (see earlier report), February 2011 has seen a return to calm.

The recent announcement of an early presidential election has brought little excitement – the opposition will boycott the vote, other candidates are weak, and the incumbent president is sure to secure another term after more than 20 years in office.

“In light of the protests that swept through Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain, some analysts have suggested that the early elections proposed by Nazarbayev are just a smokescreen aimed at quelling criticism and appeasing Europe and the United States as well as a strategy to fend off anti-government demonstrations at home”, writes Christya Riedel.

Rural poor in the Tien Shan mountains, Kazakhstan. Image by Flickr user Anguskirk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Rural poor in the Tien Shan mountains, Kazakhstan. Image by Flickr user Anguskirk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

However, it would be too superficial to draw such parallels – not only because Kazakhstani society is effectively controlled by a complex of measures that include propaganda, buying-off the protest potential and continuous crackdown on the dissent – but also because referendum, in essence, hardly differs from elections as they are usually held in Kazakhstan.

“Referendum was rejected. Don’t worry about the President, though, as thanks to an Amendment back in 2007, there is no limit to the number of times he may be elected to the top office”, Michael Hancock reminds to his readers.

The process of candidates nomination was perceived by many as a circus – and it really resembled a carousel of comic characters, including pensioners, some small businessmen and the person, notoriously known for his startling behavior. Interestingly, an overwhelming majority of those 18 nominees were publicly voicing their “utter support” of the current head of the state.

Fake satirical account of the Kazakhstan's prime-minister, which ridicules the government, tweeted in this regard [ru]:

Looking at the line-up of the nominees, you suddenly realize that, actually, referendum was not a completely bad idea.

When the authorities realized that opposition is serious in its intention to boycott the elections, they took the old puppet competitors of the incumbent president – senator Gani Kassymov and environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov – back onto the stage. Finally, these two men, president Nazarbayev and Jambyl Akhmetbekov from the pro-government Communist People's Party, have been registered as candidates for the race.

Young political activists Alexander Danilov and Aidos Kapanov launched a website [ru] dedicated to elections with the improvised poll to monitor the preferences of Internet users and separate pages with some info about the each of the candidates. Notably, those pages contain no ideological platform or election program whatsoever – only CV-style biographies.

Zulkar wonders “Qui prodest?”, why elections are so necessary now, ahead of constitutional term [ru]:

“my paranoid mind developed an idea that elections are called to ensure legitimacy for the coming years after 2012, because next year the outcome would have been not as predictable as now”.

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