© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Astana, Kazakhstan February 28, 2023. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
ALMATY (Reuters) – Kazakhstan votes on Sunday in a snap parliamentary election that is expected to cement President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s grip on power and complete the reshuffling of the ruling elite that began after he fully assumed power. leadership last year.
A stronger mandate will help Tokayev weather the regional turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting damage to trade, investment and supply chains across the former Soviet Union. .
Although he officially became president three years ago, Tokayev, 69, had remained in the shadow of his predecessor and former patron Nursultan Nazarbayev until January 2022, when the two fell out amid an attempted coup and violent unrest.
Tokayev ousted Nazarbayev, after he suppressed political unrest in the oil-rich Central Asian country and removed a number of his associates from senior public sector positions, some of whom were later accused of corruption .
While Tokayev has reshuffled the government, the lower house of parliament – elected when Nazarbayev still had sweeping powers and led the ruling Nur Otan party – was not due to be elected until 2026, and the president has called for an early vote .
Unlike Nazarbayev, Tokayev has opted not to lead the ruling party – now renamed Amanat – but polls show he is likely to maintain a comfortable majority and form the core of his support base in the Legislative Assembly, especially with no strong opposition parties on the ballot.
However, for the first time in nearly two decades, several opposition figures are running as independents, a move that could allow some government critics to win a limited number of seats.
Tokayev said the vote would allow him to begin implementing his plan to reform the country and ensure a fairer distribution of its oil wealth.
The completion of the political transition is also likely to strengthen Tokayev’s hand in foreign policy. Although he received support from Moscow during the 2022 unrest, he refused to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or recognize its annexation of certain Ukrainian territories.
At the same time, Astana tries to maintain good relations both with Moscow, its neighbor and major trading partner, and with the West, which seeks to isolate Russia.