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Early legislative elections this Sunday, March 19 in Kazakhstan. Nearly 12 million voters are called to the polls to elect the deputies of the Majilis, the lower house of Parliament and of the Mazlikhats, the local parliaments. The National Assembly was dissolved three months ago by President Tokayev re-elected in November with more than 80% of the votes in a presidential election without competition. The election raises a lot of hope among Kazakhs, who hope to see the promises of democratic change and modernization of the country materialize.
Coincidence of calendar, it is a March 19, 2019 that the ex-president Noursoultan Nazarbaïev, at the helm of Kazakhstan for almost three decades, decides to throw in the towel. After bloody repression of protests last year that left more than 230 dead, his successor Kassym Jomart Tokayev, hands down winner of two presidential elections, launched profound political and economic reforms.
The process starts in June, with a constitutional referendum, adopted by more than 75% of the votes, supposed to close the Nazarbayev era and give more powers to Parliament.
These legislative elections are organized according to new rules aimed at encouraging competition, with in particular a simplified procedure for the registration of political parties, an eligibility threshold which goes from 7 to 5%, the possibility for each region to have a member of the Assembly or even the authorization of independent candidates to stand for election, a first for this Central Asian country, four times the size of France.
Critics of the regime, however, refuse to believe in a real desire to reduce the powers of the president and to encourage pluralism. At the end of the poll, however, two new parties, ecologist and center-right, should make their entry into Parliament.
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