Kazakhstan’s Lower House initiates its dissolution, calls for snap elections

Wed 13 Jan 2016

Kazakhstan’s Lower House initiates its dissolution, calls for snap elections

On 13 January lawmakers from the three factions in the Mazhilis (Lower House), all loyal to President Nursultan Nazerbayev, initiated a motion to dissolve parliament and hold snap elections, "in connection with the aggravated economic situation in the country". The President, who according to Kazakh law has to consult with the chairmen of both houses of Parliament and the Prime Minister, has not yet taken a decision on the matter. Political analysts are expecting Nazarbayev to approve the dissolution. Parliamentary elections were originally planned in 2017, but are now likely to be held this year.

Elections as soon as possible
The head of the Ak Zhol party, Azat Peruashev called for snap elections “as soon as possible” to “modernize the state and to implement reforms determined by the President”. The Vice Speaker of the Mazhilis, Abay Tasbulatov, said that if Nazerbayev approves the call for snap elections, these could be held in late March. According to Kazakh law snap elections could be held within two months of a parliament’s early dissolution. Political analysts think the worsening economic situation in the country can be linked to the dissolution of the Mazhilis. Last week dozens of people protested in Almaty due to the economic situation. Political analyst Aidos Sarym said that “the economic situation will worsen in the future and the authorities will not be able to achieve the desired results without excessive strain”. He argued that the snap elections are “in line with tradition” as a reshuffle of the parliament will boost popular support.  Fellow political analyst Alexander Knyazev added that “some personnel rotation is needed in order to ensure their loyalty”.

Broad Support
There is overall support for the dissolution of the Mazhilis, as the economic situation in the country has worsened over the past months. Kazakhstan People’s Assembly, a presidentially appointed advisory body, supported the appeal of the Mazhilis to hold snap elections. The Kazakh economy is heavily dependent on revenues from the oil and metal industries, and the lowering of prices in these sectors has damaged the economy. In contrast to 2014, the gross domestic product growth declined by 3.5 percent in 2015. The national currency, the Tenge, lost nearly half its value against the dollar since last August, when the pegged exchange rate policy was abandoned.

A history of snap elections
The current Mazhilis of the fifth convocation was elected in 2012 and consists of MPs from three political parties: Nur Otan (80.99%), the Democratic Party Ak Zhol (7.47%) and the Communist Peoples Party (7.19%). According to Kazakh law, MPs serve a five year term, however the last two convocations were both dissolved early. The 2012 snap elections marked a change in the politics of the country, because three parties managed to pass the parliamentary threshold, ending decades of single-party rule. Still, the Mazhilis consists of loyalists of the president and the possible early dissolvent of the fifth convocation is unlikely to change this. The president is expected to make a decision on the matter the coming days.