Kazakhstan Legislative Elections: January 10, 2021

A voter in the 2012 elections in Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Yakov Fedorov (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Freedom House Rating

Not Free
Government Type
Presidential Republic
19.1 million
Legislative Elections
By January 21, 2021
Presidential Election
June 2024 (due)
Snap Presidential Election
June 9, 2019
Legislative Elections
March 16, 2016

Kazakhstan has scheduled legislative elections for January 10, 2021. Voters will elect all 107 members of the Mazhilis, the lower house of the bicameral legislature (the upper house is elected indirectly).

Political Context

Kazakhstan’s elections take place in the context of an authoritarian system in which critics of the government face harassment and arrest. Likewise, elections are marred by fraud and a lack of genuine competition. Moreover, corruption runs rampant.

In 2019, Kazakhstan’s longtime strongman Nursultan Nazerbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan since independence in 1991, surprised everyone by stepping down and calling a snap presidential election. Unsurprisingly, his chosen successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, won in a tightly-managed election that observers judged not free and not fair. Subsequently, over 1,000 people were arrested for peacefully protesting and calling for free and fair elections.

The 2021 Legislative Elections

No real opposition exists within Kazakhstan. The ruling Nur Otan (“Radiant Fatherland”) party holds 84 out of the 107 seats in the Mazhilis. The other parties are all pro-government as well; therefore, no genuine opposition has representation in the legislature.

However, Nur Otan is trying to put a patina of democratic legitimacy on itself. The party held primaries for the legislative elections in an attempt to recruit a few fresh faces for its campaign. However, critics dismiss the primary process as a sham.

Geopolitical Context

These elections are taking place in the context of widespread protests related to elections throughout former Soviet Union countries. Turmoil in Kyrgyzstan led to the annulment of the October 4 parliamentary elections and the ouster of the president. Protests in Belarus over a rigged presidential election have been going on since August.

Curated News and Analysis

Aruzhan Meirkhanova, Eurasianet (October 27, 2020): Why Kazakhstan’s leaders fear regional unrest

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (October 21, 2020): Date Set for Kazakhstan’s Parliamentary Elections

RFE/RL (October 16, 2020): Russia, Kazakhstan Replace Decades-Old Military Cooperation Agreement

Almaz Kumenov, Eurasianet (September 30, 2020): Kazakhstan: Is ruling party primaries season all theater?

BBC (June 10, 2019): Kazakhstan election condemned by international observers

Mihra Rittmann, Human Rights Watch (June 5, 2020): The Kazakhstan elections and the transition that wasn’t

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here

Updated October 28, 2020

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