Kazakhstan’s independent opposition boycotts parliamentary elections

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Kazakhstan's police officers detain a protester during an opposition rally in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, as voters in resource-rich Kazakhstan are going to the polls in a parliamentary election lacking any serious opposition. Dozens of activists were detained in at least three major cities, including the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, with reports of independent observers being denied access or detained at some polling stations. (AP Photo/Vladimir Tretyakov)

Moscow, Jan. 10,2021 Some 18 months after the election of Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the population of the Central Asian republic is voting for a new parliament on Sunday.

The Social Democratic Party is boycotting the vote, meaning that an independent opposition will not take part. Dozens of activists have also been arrested in the past few weeks.

A total of 11.9 million voters are eligible to vote.

Five parties with 312 candidates are contesting the election. To enter parliament, they have to pass the 7 per cent hurdle. As in previous years, the ruling party Nur Otan is expected to win.

After Tokayev’s election in June 2019, there were protests against authoritarianism in several cities of the ex-Soviet republic. Hundreds of people were arrested at the time.

Tokayev took over from long-term president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retired after around 30 years in power. Nazarbayev, however, still holds several influential offices and is considered the most powerful man in the country.

His daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva, who until she was fired as head of the upper chamber in parliament last spring, was considered the most powerful woman in the country is running again in the election.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticised violations of democratic standards in the parliamentary elections five years ago.

A new OSCE report states that constitutionally protected fundamental freedoms could be restricted by changes in the law.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, stricter rules apply to voting. Voters are only allowed to enter polling stations with masks covering mouth, nose and gloves.

According to official figures, more than 161,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus in Kazakhstan since the spring.

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