Kazakhs to vote in newly energized parliament elections
Voters in Kazakhstan will cast ballots Sunday after a short but active campaign for seats in the lower house of parliament that is being reconfigured in the wake of deadly unrest that gripped the resource-rich Central Asian nation a year ago.
The snap election comes on the third anniversary of the resignation as president of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and who had established immense influence. His successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was widely expected to continue Nazarbayev's authoritarian course and even renamed the capital as Nur-Sultan in his predecessor's honor.
But the country's political landscape changed markedly after a wave of violence in January 2022 when provincial protests initially sparked by a fuel price hike engulfed other cities, notably the commercial capital, Almaty, and became overtly political as demonstrators shouted "Old man out!" in reference to Nazarbayev. More than 220 people, mostly protesters, died as police harshly put down the unrest.
Amid the violence, Tokayev removed Nazarbayev from his powerful post as head of the national security council. He restored the capital's previous name of Astana, and the parliament repealed a law granting Nazarbayev and his family immunity from prosecution.
Tokayev also initiated reforms to strengthen the parliament, reduce presidential powers and limit the presidency to a single seven-year term. Under the reforms, a third of the lower house of parliament's 98 seats will be chosen in single-mandate races rather than by party list.