Kazakhstan President Calls for Snap Elections in January

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has dissolved the lower house of parliament and called snap elections for January 15 in an attempt to shake up what is basically a one-party legislature.

In a decree on his website Wednesday, Mr. Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan for more than 20 years, called for the Mazhilis parliament of Kazakhstan to be dissolved. The president's press service says there is need for a multiparty parliament to continue the country's democratic development.

Currently, Mr. Nazarbayev's Nur Otan Party members and supporters hold all of the seats in the Mazhilis parliament. But after being elected to another five-year term in April with more than 95 percent of the vote, the 71-year-old president said parliament should have a multiparty legislature.

Changes to the electoral law in 2009 mean the party with the second most votes will earn seats even if it does not reach the 7 percent threshold formerly needed to get into parliament. In the last legislative polls in 2007, Nur Otan won a crushing 88 percent of the vote, with its nearest liberal challenger garnering less than 5 percent and failing to win a single seat.

In the upcoming election, both the Ak Zol party, which is strongly aligned with business, and the leading liberal opposition party, Azat, are both hoping to win a place in parliament.

Kazakhstan has never held an election deemed fair and free by international observers.